While Government 'Acts,' Dealers Take the Reins - Tire Review Magazine

While Government ‘Acts,’ Dealers Take the Reins

When bad things happen, there is usually a Congressional hearing in the aftermath. And they all start with the same premise: How did this happen?

Easy. As apparent as the stupefied look on the faces of committee members is this fact: Government is never proactive.

The Zero to 60 time for a government agency is somewhere close to "forever," and technology zooms past some regulations that sit on the books – untended and unupdated – for decades.

Reporters covering the grand skewering of Toyota executives during recent Congressional and agency hearings about their apparently not-too-minor "quality" problems are suggesting now that Congress will be looking to create legislation “so this never, ever happens again!”

First place our elected officials will look, say some observers, is the TREAD Act, passed in 2000 and credited with prompting the recall of some 30 million vehicles since 2004. Apparently, safety advocates claim, there are loopholes in the TREAD Act and “a lack of urgency by federal regulators” that contributed to Toyota’s slow-motion reaction to brake and accelerator issues on some of its models.

Additionally, Congress has learned that NHTSA itself is sorely understaffed, lacking the manpower and expertise to identify and examine complaints. Recognizing the shortfall, President Obama recommended 66 new jobs for NHTSA in his 2011 budget.

Still, a Congressional re-exam of the TREAD Act will likely touch the tire industry – directly or indirectly – particularly portions of the law dealing with alerting NHTSA of problems and fines and criminal charges related to withholding information.

Perhaps, too, some industrious re-election seekers on the Congressional panel may attempt to address some lingering tire industry issues – like tire aging.

* * * * * *

Given the state of the economy, it’s hardly surprising that sales of used tires have never been higher.

KAIT-TV in Jonesboro, Ark., recently ran a piece on the subject, demonstrating that viewers are now more interested in take-offs than new units. The tale in Jonesboro is the same in many other parts of the country.

Thankfully, the tire store managers interviewed for the story did a great job laying out the facts and making smart recommendations.

"There tends to be more people going down to the limitations of the tire nowadays, whether it be economy related or what have you," said the manager of a local Bridgestone Americas-owned store, which does not sell used tires, “because used tires are more dangerous than a newly installed unit.”

"You cannot guarantee the structural integrity of a tire after it has been mounted to a vehicle and rolled down the highway," said the manager. "This causes a weakness in your sidewall structure, which can lead to catastrophic failure."

The manager’s argument still fell on deaf ears. One local resident said, “If I needed a set of tires on my work van and I found a good set of used tires, I would not hesitate to put a set on. I do not go on a highway with it. I do not go at highway speeds, and so safety-wise, I wouldn’t be concerned about it."

Another retailer said he doesn’t blame people for buying used tires for their daily drivers. “People will come in to buy a new tire and a new tire would be $75-$80 at that time, which is much more expensive today than they were then. At the same time, they could get a good used tire for $20 apiece installed on their car," said the owner of one tire shop. “For $80, they could have a set of new to them tires rather than having to spend $400 for a set of tires.”

But he added caution to his remarks. “You can find a lot of tires that tread-wise and sidewall-wise look excellent, but they may be so old that they have some defects that are not readily noticeable,” said that owner.

"You may have a tire that looks like it has tread, but you look down in your tread grooves. There are all kinds of dry rotted, cracky, and it also happens on your sidewall. If this area fails here, where this tread is, you could have a catastrophic blow out at 60 miles an hour. You may be a good driver but you’re not going to be that good."

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