The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued 39 new DOT tire plant codes-necessary for selling tires in the U.S.-in the past two years to 34 companies.
Among the new codes are 28 issued to Chinese companies. The new codes bring to 775 the number of codes the DOT has issued over the years to new tire manufacturers.
Of the new codes, five are codes reissued by the DOT. This marks the first time in the 31-year history of DOT codes that the agency has reissued old codes-those assigned to plants that have ceased tire production-to new parties.
Officially, the DOT keeps codes for closed or sold plants in its active list for up to eight years after a change occurs, covering the limit of legal jurisdiction the DOT has to effect a recall, a DOT spokesman said.
Of the 775 codes listed by the DOT, 200-or nearly 25 percent-are assigned to closed plants, bicycle tire plants, retread factories or plants that don't make tires.
In addition, more than 100 codes are duplicates for the same plant, leaving about 475 plants around the world certified to make tires for sale in the U.S.
It also should be noted that Goodyear has notified the DOT it no longer intends to use 76 of the codes assigned to its various plants. This includes codes for closed facilities and duplicate codes for existing plants that Goodyear had maintained under the Goodyear, Kelly-Springfield and/or Lee units.
Obtaining a DOT code for a tire plant is a relatively easy process: A manufacturer need only request one from the DOT in writing on company letterhead stationery and signed by a legal company representative. Thereafter, the DOT symbol may be molded on a tire's sidewall at the manufacturer's discretion.
The existence of a DOT symbol on a tire ``constitutes a certification by the manufacturer and signifies that the tire meets all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard requirements,'' according to DOT documents.
A manufacturer is not required to test tires prior to implementing the DOT code, but any tire sold in the U.S. is subject to random testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ensure that it meets all the minimum performance and labeling requirements as specified in FMVSS.
Tires found not in compliance with these federal standards will be recalled and be subject to civil penalties of up to $1,000 per tire, up to a maximum of $800,000, according to agency documents.
Originally, the DOT regulations excluded codes using the letters G, I, O, Q, R, S and Z because of their similarity in appearance to numbers. That policy changed a few years ago when the number of codes available dwindled to nearly none.