Kevin Rohlwing

Vital component 

If you ask 50 tire experts to name the most important part of a tubeless radial truck tire assembly, you will probably get a number of different answers. Some will point to different aspects of design or materials in the single-piece rim because that eliminated side and lock rings thereby saving the lives of technicians who serviced the assemblies. Others might focus on the 15-deg. bead taper of the tire or advances related to innerliner technology that resulted in the dominance of tubeless tires in the market.

Tire registration and recalls 

With recent passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, tire manufacturers were successful in their efforts to switch the tire registration system from voluntary to mandatory. Under the current version of 49 CFR Part 574—Tire Identification and Recordkeeping, the seller of a tire(s) is required to provide the purchaser or lessor with the tire identification number(s), or TIN, so the purchaser or lessor can register the tire(s) with the manufacturer.

Political rubber 

With presidential primaries on the horizon and every form of media reporting on the candidates, many people have politics on the mind. Before too long, lawn signs and car stickers will be out in force because supporters can exercise their right to free speech in an election. What should be a celebration of democracy has turned into the world’s most popular reality television show.

SmartWay is no guarantee 

Pop culture junkies like myself are obsessed with movie quotes. I can recite thousands of classic movie lines and scenes word for word, including most of Caddyshack. Another personal favorite is Tommy Boy, which starred the late, great Chris Farley. There is a particular scene in the movie where Tommy Callahan (Farley’s character) discusses the merits of putting the guarantee on a box of brake pads. He basically said you can put a piece of junk in a box and mark it guaranteed because all you are getting is a guaranteed piece of junk.

Lower prices, higher costs 

Years ago, a research firm conducted a study of passenger- and light-truck tire buyers and determined that consumers fell into one of three categories: brand, price or service. Brand buyers were obviously loyal to the name on the sidewall, while the only loyalty of price buyers was to the cheapest option. Service buyers basically took the recommendation of their mechanic, so brand and price were secondary. Regardless of the motive behind the purchasing decision, the influx of low-cost offshore tires has made an impact on the industry.

Of deserts and dandelions 

When natural rubber prices reached a 30-year high of $2.80/lb. in February 2011, tire manufacturers responded with an unprecedented string of price increases. Since most of the world’s supply is located in Southeast Asia, doomsday theorists predicted shortages that would remind people of the rationing that took place during World War II. Fortunately, a number of factors have stabilized the market, and natural rubber prices have leveled off.

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