WASHINGTON—When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked the tire industry's national associations about the best way to change passenger tire labeling requirements, it received conflicting answers.
The International Tire & Rubber Association and the Rubber Manufacturers Association disagreed on load rating and tire pressure issues. Meanwhile, the Tire Association of North America stressed the readiness of its tire dealer members to meet national standards.
"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 to NHTSA. "A reputable tire dealer would not permit a consumer to purchase tires that are not appropriate for that vehicle."
NHTSA's query on how to change labeling on tire sidewalls is the first action 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 easily could 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.
ITRA doesn't oppose adding a load index symbol; it is against removing the maximum inflation pressure data 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 labeling rules for retread tires.
TANA's comments, which were not signed, concentrated mostly on the results of a survey of its dealer members. Although few TANA members sell retreaded tires, it said, only 9 percent said they favored changes to retread labeling requirements, and the reasons varied widely.
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.