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Crafting Tire Registration: Bring Your Ideas to the Table

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Now that the president has signed the massive five-year, $325 million surface  transportation reauthorization bill, work can begin on fixing more of our badly broken roads and bridges. And tire registration system.

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Everything needs a starting point, and I suggest this process would best be served if all of the parties – in particular the manufacturers, independent tire dealers, various suppliers, TIA, and the RMA – came to the table with one thought in mind:

What can we contribute that will result in a tire registration program that best serves the driving public?

It’s not about what’s best for “me” or “we” or any single body. There cannot be an effort to undermine what has been passed into law, what the NTSB has strongly recommended and what Congress has mandated. That means no more scare tactics, misleading rants or make-believe fines.

Any real and supposed issue can be addressed at the table.

We all have the opportunity – this magazine included – to make our ideas and concerns heard in testimony before NHTSA as part of the agency’s rule forming process. We all have the opportunity to help craft practical regulations that balance the direct impact on independent tire dealers against the need to drastically improve tire registration completion rates.

Based on what I’ve read and heard during the last six months, there are plenty of good ideas that could help shape a highly effective and efficient system, one that delivers low impact and maximum return.

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We know from past experience that NHTSA will move only as fast as it cares to, based on priorities. It doesn’t help that in 12 months we’ll have a new president, a new administration and all new sets of priorities.

That’s why I hope NHTSA will get moving quickly and start holding public hearings to gather input and ideas on not only the mandatory tire registration provisions of the highway bill, but also two other significant tire-related provisions: establishing minimum wet traction and fuel efficiency performance standards for consumer tires, and creating a consumer-friendly online tire recall search system.

Here’s hoping that some stakeholders are already communicating and swapping thoughts on creating a more effective tire registration system.

* * * * * * * *

The DAILY NEWS JOURNAL headline asked a question on the minds of countless people in certain parts of the country:

Why are there so many tire stores?

Indeed. Good question.

For the good people of Murfreesboro, Tenn., too many is a relative thing. But there are so many that you can’t swing a flat tire without hitting one.

The city of 120,000 sits just southeast of Nashville, and is the Rutherford County seat. It is home to Middle Tennessee State University and just about every denomination of retail tire outlet you can imagine.

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There is a Tire World with five stores and an NTB. There’s a Quality Tire & Auto Service store and a pair of American Tire Co. outlets. Discount Tire has two stores in the city, as does Firestone Complete Car Care, and Ford’s Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers.

Plus, there is Gateway Tire & Service Center, Best-One Tire & Service, Southeastern Tire Services, T&K Tire & Services Center, Bud’s Tire Pros, B&L Automotive, three locations of Tire Discounters, Wheel Workz, Durango’s Tire Shop, McMannz Tire & Wheel, Tire King Complete Auto Care and the simply named Tire Store.

And let’s not forget the usual suspects: Walmart, Sears Auto Center, Midas, Meineke Car Care Center and Car-X Tire & Auto.

There are probably a dozen more we haven’t named, as well as a handful of used tire sellers, and car dealers selling rubber.

It’s so thick with tire stores that Cincinnati-based Tire Discounters built one of its stores literally two doors down from a Discount Tire location. Talk about customer confusion!

So why are there so many tire stores? That’s a question DAILY NEWS JOURNAL reporter Michelle Willard asked last August in a story she wrote.

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“Murfreesboro is growing, and prospective demand will be there, but right now the demand isn’t there,” Bruce Wrather, owner of Tire World, told Willard.

“Murfreesboro alone has around 20 tire shops and there are another 15 or so in Smyrna and La Vergne with more planned or under construction,” she wrote. “The projected growth in Rutherford County means there could soon be more people to buy tires, Chamber of Commerce President Paul Latture said.”

Gratefully, I suspect, residents are getting a bit of relief as city planners said there were currently no Planning Department submittals from tire shops, and none on the immediate horizon.

We first moved to the area in which I currently reside in 1965. Back then, the town had one company-owned Firestone store and maybe half a dozen gas stations that sold tires. Now there are eight tire stores – including a Walmart and a Discount Tire – and one car dealer that dabbles in rubber.

I suspect that will not be nearly enough in a few years.

But just how many is too many?

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