Tyre trouble in the US

More than 40 percent of passenger car tyres and more than 50 percent of light truck tyres would not withstand proposed new federal tyre testing standards, according to the US Rubber Manufacturers Association.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the proposed new standard, which suggests tyres are tested at 75mph rather than the current 50mph and over almost twice the distance, would substantially upgrade the existing high speed and endurance tests for new tyres.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association, which represents US tyre manufacturers, called the proposal by the NHTSA ‘unwarranted and extreme’ given the high level of safety and performance of today’s tyres.

‘Today’s tyres are safe,’ said RMA President and CEO Donald B. Shea. ‘Tyres last longer than ever before and often perform safely even when driven for periods of time while underinflated and overloaded. However, no tyre can withstand an unlimited amount of abuse and be expected to perform.’

An analysis by RMA is said to have found that as many as 42 percent of passenger car tyres and more than 50 percent of light truck tyres may not meet NHTSA’s proposed new standard – far greater than the 30 percent that NHTSA believes would not meet the proposed standard. RMA noted that NHTSA’s own data shows that the percentage of tyres cited in accident statistics compared to the population of tyres is 0.0013%.

‘NHTSA has absolutely failed to demonstrate that a significant population of today’s tyres is not performing in a safe and reliable manner,’ Shea said. ‘In fact, NHTSA’s own data shows an extremely low number of tyre-related problems.’

In its comments, RMA said that NHTSA’s proposal fails to abide by a number of important government guidelines for major regulations.

‘NHTSA’s proposal fails government guidelines to show that safety will be improved,’ said Ann Wilson, RMA senior vice president, government relations. ‘This is clearly a contradiction of a mandate not only of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 (Safety Act) but also the TREAD Act.’

The regulation for revising federal tyre testing standards was included in the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act, which Congress passed in November 2000.

In January 1999, RMA is said to have petitioned NHTSA to revise the 34 year-old federal tyre-testing standards. Tyre makers reportedly sought revised testing standards to reflect current ‘real world’ conditions faced by tyres as well as to bring US test standards in harmonisation with other nations.