The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will begin performance testing of commercial truck tire retreads in the first quarter of 2003, about a year after the agency first proposed it.
Representatives of the tire industry, meanwhile, were concerned enough about the testing to meet with NHTSA officials and to suggest changes to the testing protocol afterward.
``We sat down with NHTSA to let them know the testing parameters they set out would essentially mean failure for most retreads,'' said Becky MacDicken, director of government affairs for the Tire Industry Association (TIA).
The goal of the testing, NHTSA officials said last March, is to compare the performance of commercial retreads against new medium truck tires and the current truck tire standard.
The Transportation Recall Efficiency, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act mandates re-evaluation and revision of the performance standard for new truck tires, the agency noted in the text of the contract it issued for tire testing.
It quoted the Tire Retread Information Bureau as saying that 54 percent of all replacement truck tires sold in the U.S. in 2000 were retreaded. The significance of the retread market, NHTSA said, makes it important to evaluate the performance of retreads against new truck tires.
Akron-based Smithers Scientific Services won the testing contract for an undisclosed amount. After the first round of testing is completed and its results analyzed, a second round of tests may be ordered for late 2003.
Top officials of tire industry associations met with NHTSA personnel Oct. 22 for a preliminary discussion about upcoming revisions to the truck tire standard and testing of both new truck tires and retreads. Besides Ms. MacDicken, industry attendees included Ann Wilson, senior vice president, government affairs for the Rubber Manufacturers Association; Ramey Thompson, chairman of the Tread Rubber/Tire Repair Materials Manufacturers Group; and Marvin Bozarth, chairman of the Retread/Repair Industry Government Advisory Council.
At the request of the NHTSA officials, the four answered various agency questions about new truck tires and retreads and also presented their own concerns and suggestions about the agency's testing protocol.
``We strongly believe that major and extensive revisions of the current regulations are not necessary,'' the industry officials said. They noted that tire debris along the highway remains the primary complaint against new and retreaded truck tires, yet highway studies demonstrated that 86 percent of all tire debris was caused by underinflation. ``The studies suggest that tire debris cannot be solved solely through government regulations,'' they said.
The group also urgently requested some major changes in the retread testing protocol, according to Ms. MacDicken.
``They wanted to test second retreads on a drive axle, which is not standard practice,'' she said. ``They agreed they wouldn't test retreads that have been repaired, which was good news.''