WASHINGTON (May 23, 2002)—Snow tires and other deep lug passenger and light truck tires probably wouldn't pass the proposed new federal safety standards and would have to be phased out of production, according to a number of industry sources.
At the center of the issue is the high-speed endurance test, designed to evaluate a tire's ability to run safely at high speeds and under stress. The test is designed to keep problems from arising like those that led to the rash of failures of Firestone Wilderness AT, ATX and ATX II tires mounted primarily on Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicles.
The sources said deeper lug tires like snow and certain light truck tires not designed to run at high speeds or in high temperatures likely would fail the test.
In the high-speed test, for example, the tires would be tested at speeds of 88, 94 and 100 mph, compared with the current requirement of 75, 80 and 85 mph. The proposed new endurance test increases the required speed 50 percent, from 50 to 75 mph. It also increases duration from 34 to 40 hours and distance from 2,720 to 4,800 kilometers.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association plans to submit a comment on the matter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before the June 5 deadline. The trade association that represents tire and other rubber product companies earlier voiced the industry's concerns when NHTSA said the new regulations would make obsolete as many as a third of the tires on U.S. roads today.
The RMA has complained the standards are overly stringent.