WASHINGTON—Changing U.S. tire identification numbers will speed both tire recalls and international standardization of tire regulations. This is what the Rubber Manufacturers Association and the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO) told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a petition last year, and NHTSA concurred in the final rule it published in the Federal Register July 8.
As the RMA and ETRTO requested, the document changes the date of manufacture on the ends of tire identification numbers to four digits from three, and also reduces the size of the numbers to four millimeters from six.
The rule goes into effect July 2, 2000, although tire manufacturers and retreaders may comply before that date if they choose. Sept. 7 is the deadline for interested parties to request reconsideration of the rule.
According to NHTSA, tire identification numbers consist of the manufacturer's or retreader's identification code, a tire size symbol, an optional descriptive code and the date of manufacture.
Changing the date of manufacture to four digits, the RMA and ETRTO argued, allows listing the week of manufacture, not just the month, which makes the tire more traceable during recalls.
Furthermore, the associations noted, the International Standards Organization recommended the use of a four-digit date-of-manufacture number by January 2000, and the Economic Commission for Europe authorized the change. Approving the change in the U.S. would harmonize U.S. and ECE standards, they said.
NHTSA agreed with the RMA that reducing the size of the numbers ``will relieve manufacturers and retreaders of the burden they might otherwise incur by having to redesign their tire molds to accommodate the additional digit,'' the agency said in its Federal Register notice.
NHTSA issued its proposed rule on tire IDs last Oct. 19. Objecting to it were CIMS Inc., the Akron tire identification service company; Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; and the Consumer Federation of America.
CIMS wanted NHTSA to mold the tire ID numbers on both sides of the tire, and to waive the new ID requirements for retreaders. Advocates and the CFA argued that reducing the size of the numbers would penalize aging drivers in their attempts to read them.
In answer, the agency noted that the International Tire and Rubber Association, the major association representing retreaders, submitted comments supporting the new rule; that the reduced-size numbers were still the equivalent of 16-point newspaper type; and that older drivers could either use a magnifying glass or ask a tire dealer's or auto technician's help in reading the numbers.