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Editor's Notebook

Missing a Word Not ‘Iffy’

Anti-unsafe used tire law proponents miss the point – and the key word.

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While I’m not necessarily a fan of the RMA bulldogging its way state-by-state for a national solution to the “Used Tire Question,” I just don’t get all of the backlash.

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Except that I do.

People can fail to see something that is plainly in view. Focus your attention on one thing, scientists say, and the brain basically blocks out everything else. The intense fixation on one thing blots out all else.

When reading about the RMA’s efforts to pass laws in Florida, Texas and elsewhere to ban the sale of unsafe used tires, many, many, many people fixed on the words Used Tires and totally missed the word Unsafe.

(At press time, the Florida effort failed when the bill was held up as the state senate’s 2013 session closed.)
The RMA (re: The Manufacturers) is not saying that you shouldn’t be allow­ed to sell Used Tires. While some cringe at the thought of selling used tires, the RMA – quite rightfully – is saying that no one should be selling Unsafe Used Tires.

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I have a hard time believing that anyone – dealer, manufacturer, processor and pundit alike – could rally behind the idea that selling an Unsafe Used Tire is A-OK.

What’s funny, too, is that the proposed legislation clearly defines the Unsafe part. To wit:
• A tire with less than 2/32nds tread depth is unsafe (heck, I and many others insist that less than 4/32nds is highly questionable).
• A tire missing chunks of tread or having gashed sidewalls or broken beads is unsafe.
• Exposed body plies or steel belts make for an unsafe tire.
• Improperly performed repairs – of any kind – render any tire unsafe.
• A tire under an active or past recall is unsafe.
• A tire with a hole larger than one-quarter-inch is unsafe.
[If you think it’s OK to sell a tire exhibiting any of those six symptoms, stop reading this, mail your building keys to me and walk away now. You’re killing us…and your customers.]

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If that list isn’t enough, there are those who argue that there is no need for a law, that quality tire establishments know better and don’t sell Unsafe Used Tires. And, besides, “we don’t need more unenforceable laws.”

So while we can apparently agree that there are Unsafe Used Tires and define them in a logical fashion, just how can we take them out of circulation unless there are rules, either set by the industry (no chance of that) or determined by law (more likely)?

The issue is not about enforceability or that the police have better things to do; frankly someone driving on a dangerous tire should draw more attention than someone rolling 10 mph over the speed limit. This is about there being a law in the first place.

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Laws are not made to harm those who already follow the rules, they are there to rein in those who aren’t – whether by accident or intention. They curb unfair business practices (level the field) and protect innocent, unknowing consumers from harm.

There are no established standards for used tires. No inspection protocols or condition rules. No CarFax histories on tires. NHTSA hasn’t developed construction or testing standards. Used tires aren’t burst tested or run through the rigors of UTQG testing.

There are NO STANDARDS and there is little or no chance that this industry (i.e. Private Enterprise) will create such of its own volition.

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Because people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake, the law (i.e. The Government) has to step in…admittedly with the strong “encouragement” of The Manufacturers.

Why? Simple math: The Manufacturers have the deepest pockets in this irrational game of lawsuit chicken. Next up are The Dealers, some of whom complain loudly about “needless government intervention” and such (until they get sued).

Do you know why your employees – especially tire techs – should be well-trained and that such training be documented? Sure, it’s about doing the job right and making for satisfied custo­mers. More importantly, demonstrating that training was obtained and employ­ed is a HUGE point should you ever have to defend yourself in court.

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That’s why the push back on used tire sale bans worries – and scares – me.

One reader called it “an iffy situation at best.”

I get that some folks can barely afford an oil change, let alone a pair of (or four) new tires. But I also think some consumers see used tires as a less expensive long-term alternative to perceived high tire prices, and I think some dealers have gotten hooked on selling them.

Yes, a very iffy situation.
But Unsafe is not iffy.  

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