Now that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has completed most of the TREAD Act tire rules for light vehicles, it is turning its attention to commercial vehicles.
While the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act covered both light and heavy vehicles, NHTSA indicated it would wait to address heavy vehicle tire issues until after it dealt with light vehicle tire performance upgrades and tire pressure monitoring systems.
With that now accomplished, the agency will work over the next several years to first evaluate rulemaking to upgrade requirements for heavy vehicle tires. Then it plans to look at incorporating heavy vehicle tire pressure monitoring system requirements based on data collection and other research, said Claude Harris, director of NHTSA's Office of Crash Avoidance Standards. He was a speaker at the Clemson University Tire Industry Conference in Hilton Head.
NHTSA first is doing research to understand the performance capabilities of new truck tires for vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds that are covered under current federal standards, but also for retreaded tires, which currently aren't covered under these standards, Mr. Harris said.
``As 60 percent of the commercial market are retreads, it would be remiss on our part if we didn't look at the performance of retreads,'' he said.
In putting together its testing plans, NHTSA received input from the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the Tire Industry Association, the Retread Industry Government Advisory Council, the Tire Retread Information Bureau and the Tread Rubber Materials Manufacturing Group.
NHTSA is testing 10 tire types, including four on new tires and six on retreads. Research will focus on tire endurance and high-speed testing. The next step for the heavy truck tire test program will be to determine if current requirements are adequate, need modifying or if the agency must initiate new rulemaking, Mr. Harris said. ``We will perform further research depending upon the initial test results and funding availability.''
NHTSA also will delay any decision with regards to heavy vehicle tires depending on the results of studies currently under way that look at crash causation. There are more than 1,000 crashes annually that involve heavy trucks, and NHTSA wants to look at underlying causes, including human response and equipment involvement, including tires, according to Mr. Harris.
Those tests were initiated last year and will continue through 2003, he said. Preliminary data will be compiled in 2004 and used in NHTSA's rulemaking.