WASHINGTON (Feb. 28, 2001)—The International Tire & Rubber Association disagreed strongly with the Rubber Manufacturers Association on load rating and tire pressure issues in comments on a proposal to change federal tire labeling requirements.
Meanwhile, the Tire Association of North America stressed its the readiness of its tire dealer members to meet national standards in its own comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"Consumers tend to rely on their tire dealer to select tires for their vehicles that will meet all of the manufacturer´s recommendations," TANA wrote. "A reputable tire dealer would not permit a consumer to purchase tires that are not appropriate for that vehicle."
All three associations were answering NHTSA´s questions about the best way to go about changing federal labeling requirements for passenger tire sidewalls. This rulemaking is the first to come up under the aegis of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act passed last year in the wake of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.´s 6.5-million-tire recall.
Among other things, the RMA recommended to NHTSA that the maximum tire pressure marking on tire sidewalls be removed, because the maximum pressure could too easily be mistaken for the recommended pressure, which usually is lower.
The recommended pressure, load index and speed symbol should be included in a placard placed on a standardized part of the vehicle, the RMA said. The placard is particularly crucial since few motorists know how to use the load rating information on the sidewall properly, it added.
While ITRA agreed with most of the RMA´s comments, it opposed its recommendations on maximum pressure and load ratings, according to the comments signed by ITRA Executive Director Marvin Bozarth.
While ITRA doesn´t oppose the addition of a load index symbol, it is against removing the maximum inflation pressure information on sidewalls, Mr. Bozarth said.
"We are concerned that the consumer or the tire technician may attempt to inflate a tire without clearly understanding the meaning of the load index symbol," he said. "The maximum inflation pressure in psi helps to avoid unintentional overinflation of tires, and the maximum load in pounds serves as a guide on vehicle load capacity."
While the maximum inflation pressure is indeed higher in most cases than the recommended pressure, "in most cases, it is not high enough to create major problems," he said.
Mr. Bozarth also defended the current sidewall labeling requirements for retread tires.
"Since the recent changes that mandate a four-digit Date Code in place of the previous three-digit Date Code, we believe the existing labeling requirements work very well and are sufficient for future needs," he said.
TANA´s comments, which were not signed, concentrated mostly on the results of a survey of its dealer members. Although few TANA members sell retread tires, it said, only nine percent said they favored changes to retread labeling requirements, and the reasons varied widely.
Only 15 percent of TANA dealers believed their customers were generally well educated about tires, and 98 percent said their customers "rely on them for all information on tire safety and maintenance."
Whereas the RMA only recommended a "standardized location" for vehicle placards containing tire information, TANA polled its members on the proper location. The visor led with 43 percent, followed by the doorjamb with 33 percent, while the dashboard, gas cap and glove box also received votes.
"We also received numerous suggestions for a sticker in the upper left-hand corner of the windshield, much like the oil change reminder stickers," TANA said.