WASHINGTON-The Department of Transportation would be blocked from making tire rolling resistance part of its Uniform Tire Quality Grading system during fiscal year 1996 under a provision of the House-Senate conference bill on Transportation Department appropriations. Approved by conferees Oct. 19, the DOT appropriations package also continues the moratorium on a federal requirement for states to buy increasing percentages of rubberized asphalt for federally funded highway projects.
The bill grants $37 billion to DOT for its operations during the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It forbids the department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, however, from using any of that money ``to plan, finalize or implement . . . any requirement pertaining to a (tire) grading standard that is different from the three grading standards (treadwear, traction and temperature resistance) already in effect.''
Ironically, the 1995 DOT appropriations bill required NHTSA to issue a rolling resistance grade by June 1 under President Clinton's Global Climate Action Plan.
The agency didn't make that deadline, but did issue a proposal to replace the UTQG temperature resistance grade with a rolling resistance grade. Michelin North America, which originally proposed the new grade, was the only tire maker to support it.
Multinational Business Services Inc., a Washington consulting firm, led the opposition to the rolling resistance grade.
``This idea was not initiated by Congress, but just came from the Global Climate Action Plan without any debate,'' said MBS President Jim J. Tozzi. For Congress to block the rolling resistance grade was ``only the natural thing to do,'' according to Mr. Tozzi.
The ``adamant'' anti-rolling- resistance position of conferee Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, the powerful chairman of a key House Appropriations subcommittee, allowed the amendment on rolling resistance to make it into the conference bill without a vote, said Kenneth Farber, a Washington attorney representing Michelin.
Another Michelin spokesman said his company will wait to comment until it sees what Congress and the President decide to do. The conference bill was supposed to reach the House Oct. 25 and the Senate Oct. 27, and Transportation Secretary Federico Pe¤a was quoted as saying President Clinton would sign it.
Section 1038 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act sets requirements for states to use increasing percentages of crumb-rubber-modified asphalt in federally funded highway projects through FY 1997 as a condition of retaining those funds.
But because of complaints from state highway officials and conventional asphalt manufacturers, then-Rep. Bob Carr, D-Mich., added an amendment to the FY 1994 DOT bill, forbidding the Federal Highway Administration from using any funds to promote or enforce Section 1038. The Clinton administration retained the moratorium in FY 1995, and also in the current bill.
Conferees are working on another bill to designate nearly 160,000 miles of roads as the National Highway System.
One provision being considered for this bill is a compromise on asphalt rubber, rescinding the state procurement requirements but allowing funds for research and technology transfer. (See related story on page 4.)