The Rubber Manufacturers Association is endorsing a new federal rule revising tire labeling requirements, saying the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration modified it enough to ensure the safety of tire workers who mold the labels onto tire sidewalls.
Also, the government said it would wait until another tire safety rule was issued to rule on the RMA's question on load limits on light trucks.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA), however, opposes the TIN-on-both-sides provision in any case because it believes the requirement will harm retreaders. TIA said it does support most of the rule, especially its provisions to leave maximum air pressure, material and ply information on the sidewall.
Issued Nov. 18, the final rule from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is designed to make tire safety and maintenance information both more complete and more accessible to motorists. Revising labeling requirements on tire sidewalls and vehicle tire information placards was one of the key mandates of the Transportation Recall Efficiency, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act passed in October 2000 in response to Bridgestone/Firestone's recall of 6.5 million tires.
The big controversy in the proposed tire labeling rule between NHTSA and the RMA was over the issue of molding tire identification numbers into both sides of the tire. Such a requirement would pose an unacceptable danger to production-line workers who would have to enter molds heated above 300 degrees Fahrenheit just to change the date codes, tire makers said.
NHTSA pre-empted that risk, according to the RMA, by requiring that the date code need only be on one side of the tire, with only the identification number itself required on both sides.
``NHTSA's leadership listened to tire makers' safety concerns and even visited tire plants to see how tires are made so they could make an educated decision on this issue,'' said Ann Wilson, RMA senior vice president of government affairs, in a press release.
Becky MacDicken, TIA director of government affairs, reiterated her association's opposition to molding the TIN on both sides, though stressing its support for the rule as a whole.
``TIA leaders believe (the TIN provision) will result in financial damage to businesses that retread passenger and light truck tires,'' Ms. MacDicken said. ``TIA recognizes that the passenger and light truck retreading segment is shrinking in size, but we believe that NHTSA's rule is important to refute, given that the government could later consider imposing this same standard on retreaded truck tires.''
Ms. MacDicken praised the government for granting TIA's wish that the maximum air pressure, material and ply information remain on the sidewall, despite the urging of most other commenters to eliminate that requirement. She quoted NHTSA's Nov. 18 Federal Register notice, which noted TIA's view ``that the cord and ply material is very important to the tire retread, repair and recycling industries, because this information enables consumers and industry professionals to determine the level of risk when inflating, repairing, retreading or servicing a specific tire.''
Among other requirements, the tire labeling rule also:
* Requires all characters in the tire identification number to be at least one-quarter inch high, to increase readability;
* Requires that the vehicle tire information placard-which lists the vehicle manufacturer's recommended tire pressure and load limits-be placed on the post next to the driver's side in nearly all passenger vehicles; and
* Requires a defined format and colored lettering for the placards, including a stipulation that tire inflation pressure information be printed in red, yellow and black on a white background.
The labeling rule goes into effect Sept. 1, 2003, for all vehicles and tires made on or after that date. Its requirements will be phased in, with 40 percent of all new tires to comply with them in September 2004-August 2005; 70 percent in September 2005-August 2006; and 100 percent by Sept. 1, 2006.
NHTSA also proposed removing the current requirement that passenger car tires used on pickup trucks, vans and sport-utility vehicles carry 10 percent less load on those vehicles than on cars. But the RMA said that light trucks' higher centers of gravity and tougher service conditions mandated the 10-percent differential.