WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2000)—A standard to improve the labeling of tires is the first under formal consideration to arise from a new law passed in the wake of the Firestone recall.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seeks comments from tire manufacturers, consumer advocates, motorists and other interested parties on ways to "improve the quality and usefulness of tire information and its availability and understandability to consumers," according to an advance notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Dec. 1 Federal Register.
NHTSA wants the public input to frame a proposed rule which, the agency said, will change tire labeling requirements to better assist consumers in identifying tires which are subject to recall.
The rule may also include "whatever additional action is appropriate to ensure that the public is aware of the importance of observing motor vehicle tire load limits and maintaining proper tire inflation levels," according to the notice.
This, according to NHTSA, is the first new standard to be considered under the directives of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act signed into law by President Clinton this fall. Congress passed the TREAD Act in direct reaction to Firestone´s recall of 6.5 million 15-inch ATX and Wilderness tires, and to the consumer worries engendered by the recall.
Under the provisions of the act, NHTSA must initiate rulemaking on a revised tire labeling standard within 30 days of the president signing the bill and issue a final rule by June 1, 2002.
Among the tire issues on which the agency seeks comment are;
*The content, readability and location of tire identification numbers;
*The efficacy of Uniform Tire Quality Grading standards;
*Plies and cord material;
*Run-flat and extended mobility tires;
*Tire inflation pressure; and
*The efficacy of current dissemination practices for tire safety information.
"We are moving quickly to put better information programs into place in the crucial area of tire safety," said NHTSA Administrator Sue Bailey in a press release.
The issuance of the advance notice "is an indication that the agency intends to follow the timeline set out in the TREAD Act," said Ann Wilson, vice president of government affairs for the Rubber Manufacturers Association. "It´s important for everybody to realize that there´s a tight timeline on this rulemaking."
The RMA will submit comments to NHTSA in time to meet the Jan. 30 deadline, according to Ms. Wilson. So will the Tire Association of North America, which at presstime hadn´t had time to study the advance notice in detail, according to Rebecca MacDicken, TANA director of government affairs.
Among the other pending rules mandated by the TREAD Act are a rewrite of federal tire safety standards, last revised in 1968; a rule requiring dashboard sensors warning motorists of low tire pressure; standards enhancing reporting requirements for safety and recall-related data by auto, tire and parts manufacturers; and requirements for vehicle rollover testing and ratings.