Consumer safety advocates are making good their threat to sue the government over its final rule on tire pressure monitoring devices, even as the tire industry reiterates its opposition to the standard for entirely different reasons.
Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety and the New York Public Interest Research Group filed a petition for review of the standard June 25 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.
Though the petition was brief and pro forma, the groups made plain their disgust over the standard.
Consumer advocates favor a mandate for a monitoring system that records air pressures directly from each tire. The Office of Management and Budget forced the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to make room in the final rule for ``indirect'' systems that estimate air pressure through tire rotation in vehicles equipped with anti-lock braking systems.
NHTSA issued the standard May 30 with a November 1, 2003, effective date covering all passenger cars and light trucks. Long-term standards for tire pressure monitoring-with the docket left open to allow comments on new technologies-are due March 1, 2005, and are to go into effect Nov. 1, 2006.
``As NHTSA explicitly recognized, the direct system is far superior,'' the groups said in their release. Yet the agency crumbled under OMB pressure to allow auto makers to use an inferior monitoring method that will endanger motorists, they added.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association has no interest in the lawsuit. ``We don't have a problem with any particular monitoring system, but with the standard itself,'' an RMA spokesman said.
Under the final rule, if auto makers use a direct monitoring system, that system is required to warn motorists when tires are 25 percent or more below either the vehicle maker's recommended cold inflation pressure or a minimum pressure specified in the standard-whichever is higher. With indirect systems, the allowed differential is 30 percent.
Allowing tires to fall so far below recommended pressures will result in tires whose pressures are inadequate to carry vehicle load, the spokesman said. The RMA and other tire industry associations are united in their call for NHTSA to create a reserve inflation pressure capacity requirement to compensate for the deficiency in the rule.
There was no word on when the New York appeals court would act on the safety groups' petition.