The bipartisan Senate Bill 1741 was introduced yesterday in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The RMA, which was deeply involved in crafting the language of the bill, has offered its strong support. TIA has been adamantly against any legislative or regulatory approach to improving tire registration results.
The bill would create minimum tire performance standards for tire fuel efficiency and wet traction; improve manufacturers’ ability to contact consumers in the event of a tire recall; and create a web-based tool for consumers and tire dealers to more easily determine whether a tire is subject to a safety recall.
It is not fully known as yet what impact the proposed “minimum performance standards” aspect of the proposed law would have on the 2007 Congressional mandate that was to create a tire fuel efficiency testing, tire labeling and consumer education program. Those regulations remain stuck within NHTSA, and this past December the Obama Administration said they will not see the light of day until 2017.
“This legislation will significantly help improve consumer safety, vehicle fuel economy and industry global competitiveness as well as regulatory consistency,” said Dan Zielinski, RMA senior vice president of public affairs. “We applaud Sen. Graham for taking a leadership role in Congress to introduce this measure and appreciate Sen. Brown and Sen. Wicker for their support.”
Of specific interest to tire dealers is the portion of the bill addressing tire registration, which has been under a so-called “voluntary” system for more than three decades; the current system is “voluntary” in that consumers are made responsible for filing tire registration information – including the tire identification numbers for the new tires they purchase. This has resulted, according to many in the industry, with completion rates well below those accomplished prior to enactment of the voluntary system in 1982.
The RMA claims that under voluntary tire registration, the completion rate dropped from “nearly 50% to about 15%.”
Under S. 1741, tire sellers – designated in the bill as a “distributor or dealer of tires that is not owned or controlled by a manufacturer of tires” – “to maintain records of the name and address of tire purchasers and lessors and information identifying the tire that was purchased or leased; and any additional records the Secretary (of Transportation) considers appropriate.”
That information, the bill continues, is to then be “electronically” transmitted “to the manufacturer of the tires or the designee of the manufacturer by secure means at no cost to tire purchasers or lessors.”
According to the RMA, this system will “improve the ability of tire manufacturers to directly notify consumers of a tire recall so that tires with potential safety issues can be quickly removed from service and replaced.”
Most obviously, a mandatory system would improve a tiremakers ability to notify consumers that may be affected by a tire recall, especially in an age where news consumption is more scattered and at levels far below those during the Ford-Firestone recalls of 2000.
That portion of S. 1741 differs considerably from the tire registration language included in the 361-page GROW AMERICA Act,. Considered a long-shot to pass, the $302 billion, four-year surface transportation bill was presented to the House of Representatives by the Obama Administration in May.
Buried in that bill is a 131-word passage that dances around the idea of a return to mandatory tire registration, stating that: “The Secretary may initiate a rulemaking to consider requiring a distributor or dealer of tires that is not owned or controlled by a manufacturer of tires to maintain records of the name and address of tire purchasers and lessors and information identifying the tire that was purchased or leased, and any additional records the Secretary deems appropriate. Such rulemaking may also consider requiring a distributor or dealer of tires that is not owned or controlled by a manufacturer of tires to electronically transmit such records to the manufacturer of the tire by secure means at no cost to tire purchasers or lessors.”
In addition to a requiring a new mandatory tire registration system, S. 1741 will require NHTSA to an online tire recall lookup tool, searchable by TIN, to enable consumers and tire sellers to quickly determine whether a tire is subject to a recall. Such a system would be similar to the online vehicle recall lookup system already in place.
Finally, the bill would create minimum performance standards for fuel efficiency and wet traction that all consumer tires would have to meet in order to be sold in the U.S.
“Several other nations already have adopted similar standards. Adopting these standards helps to ensure that the U.S. does not become a dumping ground for lower performing tires,” the RMA said.
The association has been talking publicly about such a program over the last 12 months. At the 2015 Clemson University Tire Industry Conference, both Pete Selleck, chairman and CEO of Michelin North America and chairman of the RMA, and Tracey Norberg, RMA senior vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel, both spoke about the need for tire performance standards.