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NHTSA seeks to alter tire ID code

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Photo courtesy of The alphanumeric DOT tire plant identification code is molded into the sidewall of all road-going tires intended for sale in the U.S.

WASHINGTON (July 24, 2014) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to change the internationally recognized tire plant identification number to a three-symbol code from a two-symbol code because the agency’s database supposedly is running out of two-symbol codes.

The agency also wants to standardize the length of the alphanumeric TINs at 13 symbols for new tires and seven for retreads, according to language in a proposed rule that would amend the format of tire identification numbers — issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation — that are molded into tire sidewalls for identification purposes in safety recalls.

The agency published its proposal in the July 24 Federal Register.

NHTSA is running out of two-symbol plant codes for TINs, necessitating the change to three symbols, the agency said in the July 24 document.

“This shortage has arisen because of the increase in tire manufacturers,” the agency said. “This increase is projected to continue.”

NHTSA issued 24 new plant identity codes in 2013, twice as many as in 2012 but roughly average for the past five years, according to a Tire Business article that appeared in February 2014.

Tire retreaders use a three-symbol plant code in their TINs, and to date have used only about 5,800 of the 27,000 possible permutations of three symbols, NHTSA said.

“At the current rate of new (retread) plant code issuance, the agency will not run out of three-symbol manufacturer codes for decades, if not longer,” it said.

TIN lengths are not standardized, and a TIN for a new tire can be anywhere from eight to 13 symbols in length, according to the agency.

“Because both a full TIN and partial TIN may be eight symbols in length, it may not always be clear whether an eight-symbol TIN obtained from one side of a tire…is a full TIN or a partial TIN,” the proposal said.

If made final, the rule would become effective immediately for new manufacturers or new plants by existing manufacturers, NHTSA said.

Existing plants would have a five-year phase-in period for using three-symbol plant codes and standardized 13-symbol TINs, the agency said.

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