CEO CORNER: Help Wanted: U.S. Tire Manufacturers Seek Strong Leader at NHTSA

By Anne Forristall Luke, USTMA President and CEO

Does that headline seem counterintuitive? Maybe. Ask nearly any business about the impact of government regulation and you’re likely to get an earful. Cost, complexity and inflexibility are common themes and undoubtedly, they can make it harder to operate.

But tire manufacturers, with our priority focus on safety, performance and competition to provide consumers the best product for their needs, know there’s more to that story. Good policy, carefully considered and appropriately implemented, can improve safety and support a competitive business environment by creating a level playing field. A strong leader at the federal agency charged with effecting that policy is a vital partner to U.S. tire manufacturers.

Of course, I’m talking about the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency charged with reducing the risk of motor vehicle crashes and developing safety standards for motor vehicles, motor vehicle equipment and tires. USTMA members are committed not only to making tires that live up to those standards, but ensuring that everyone who makes a tire to sell in the U.S. lives up to them, too.

Strong leadership is needed at NHTSA to ensure success in this mission. Unfortunately, progress to fill hundreds of important positions across the Trump Administration has been slower than anticipated. Many appointments require extensive background review and U.S. Senate approval, causing a backlog in the pipeline and making prioritization a challenge for every new Administration.

In this environment, business must engage and serve as a resource where we can. That’s why I’ve written to President Trump to communicate USTMA’s perspective on the importance of leadership at the top to advance NHTSA’s vital safety and pro-competitive agenda, and urged him to accelerate efforts to nominate an Administrator. We are eager to support effective implementation of several important new provisions, and to work with the Administration on its efforts to review and reduce existing, obsolete and costly regulations. Both of these efforts will help to improve the competitiveness of our industry that supports 737,000 jobs and produces nearly $150 billion in economic activity.

Principally, USTMA wants NHTSA to implement requirements that we successfully advocated in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. That law requires NHTSA to improve the tire recall system by improving consumer notification of recalls and creating a web-based, tire-recall search tool. Both are important in the effort to remove recalled tires from service as quickly as possible.

The FAST Act also promotes global competitiveness in the tire manufacturing industry by requiring NHTSA to create new tire performance standards for tire fuel efficiency and wet traction. Several of the world’s other large tire markets have these standards in place and USTMA members have invested the resources and technology to meet them. Without similar requirements to raise the bar for tire performance in the U.S., our market could become a dumping ground for less technologically advanced tires and put U.S. tire manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage.

Finalizing these pro-competitive and pro-safety regulations will take hard work, time and leadership. USTMA continues to be actively engaged in this process and looks forward to working with a new NHTSA Administrator to advance our common goal of safety while preserving a competitive landscape for the growing U.S. tire manufacturing industry.

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