The proposed new federal safety standards for tires, FMVSS 139, are designed to make sure new tires meet measurably enchanced safety regulations.
They are not designed to run certain specialty tire companies out of business.
But that unfortunately is one of the potential consequences of the federal government's efforts to set higher tire safety standards as mandated by the Tire Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act.
Denman Tire Corp., Hoosier Racing Tire Corp. and Specialty Tires of America Inc. all say they are threatened by the proposed standards, even though they claim an exemplary safety record for the specialty tires they produce, such as those for classic cars and certain race tires.
Specifically, these companies and others are concerned about the cost of complying with the proposed standard's high-speed endurance wheel test, which is much more stringent than was required by the existing 30-year-old measure. This is especially true for bias tires, which potentially could be outlawed by these regulations, but also applies to specialty application radials.
In its response to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding the proposed rules, Specialty Tires noted that during its recent insurance renew-al process, insurers were willing to continue covering bias-ply products, which likely won't meet the new standard, while expressing concern over radial tires.
The companies claim meeting this test will double the cost of certain tires, forcing them to eliminate those lines. The higher cost also could result in specialty tire consumers not replacing used tires as frequently or not replacing them at all, Hoosier said in a statement to NHTSA.
Should NHTSA give special consideration to these smaller specialty tire makers whose products might fail to meet the new tire standards found in the proposed new federal safety standard FMVSS 139?
We think it should, based principally on the past safety record these companies claim for their tires, the majority of which are run in controlled situations.
While most consumers are largely unaware of the existence of these companies, most tire dealers are familiar with one or all of them and probably carry or have carried their products.
Potentially the proposed tire standard also could affect heavy tread tires-such as snow tires and deep lug light truck tires-which are produced by the major tire makers and also are likely to fail the high-speed endurance test.
With the improvements achieved in tire technology over the past 30 years, an update of the federal tire standards is needed. But before turning the proposed standard into law, NHTSA should review the impact of FMVSS 139 on those companies that have a proven record that their products are safe.