Surrender Dorothy!

The California Tire Age bill passed the state assembly yesterday 48-21 and that loud pop you may have heard was the sound of the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association’s head exploding.

While it wasn’t as good as a rant as one from the Tire Industry Associations’ Roy Littlefield, the immediate response from the tiremakers trade group wasn’t far off (RMA Press Release). Dan Zielinski, RMA senior vice president of public affairs, panted about the bill’s proponents using “fear-mongering to allege that tires reaching a certain chronological age are dangerous.”

Then they trotted out the old war horses that have won them many a regulatory reprieve in the past – helping consumers “burdens” tire retailers and “the allegations that there is a correlation between tire performance and chronological tire age are unfounded and unsupported by data.”

To repeat ourselves: industry scientists have been studying age degradation in rubber since the 1930s.  German studies established the link between tire age and tire failure, leading automakers, as early as 1990, to add warnings to their owner’s manuals that indicated tires older than six years should only be used in an emergency and replaced as soon as possible.  In 2001, the British Rubber Manufacturers Association (a trade organization that consisted of all major tire companies) devised this recommended practice on tire aging: “BRMA members strongly recommend that unused tyres should not be put into service if they are over 6 years old and that all tyres should be replaced 10 years from the date of their manufacture.”

More recently, studies from Ford Motor Company examined the material science behind tire aging and evaluated thermo-oxidative aging and its effects on radial tires.  This work led to the development of tire age test methods, published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and the company’s recommendation that tires older than 6-years presented a greater risk for failure and shouldn’t be used.  NHTSA also tested and analyzed field-aged and artificially aged tires, as did the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) working group and their findings validate Ford’s testing.

Of course, no consumer victory would be complete without an appearance by industry’s favorite boogeyman. Take it away Dan:

“AB 496 would only benefit trial lawyers by creating a new roadmap to sue California tire dealers,” Zielinski said.

Actually it would seem that disclosure would reduce tire dealers potential liability in a tire age case if they follow the law.

But, the RMA got two things right. The version that went to the assembly floor exempted auto dealers from the tire age disclosure requirements – a regrettable omission. As Zielinski points out “Any consumer who buys tires or a vehicle in a private transaction, or who buys a new or used vehicle from a dealer or who buys replacement tires from an auto dealer would not receive a notification under this proposal.” But legislation is a series of compromises and getting tire dealers who are selling the lion’s share of tires in California to provide information to consumers will have a significant effect in addressing this problem.

The second thing?

“Providing a simple, understandable notification to consumers about a tire’s date of manufacture is reasonable,” Zielinski said.

We couldn’t have said it better.