Tire associations in the U.S., Europe and Japan want significant changes to the government's final tire testing rule, while one specialty tire manufacturer insists it will go out of business unless it gets an exemption from testing specialty radial tires.
``Denman Tire Corp....will not survive on production of bias specialty tires alone,'' stated the Aug. 7 petition for reconsideration of the rule from the Leavittsburg, Ohio-based specialty tire maker.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO) and the Japan Automobile Tyre Manufacturers Association (JATMA), meanwhile, claimed certain aspects of the rule are unworkable, particularly those governing testing of light truck and snow tires.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued its revised standard for tire safety and performance under the aegis of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act.
The tire testing rule, in fact, could be considered the cornerstone of the entire TREAD Act, which was inspired by the recall of 6.5 million Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires.
Released June 23 on the NHTSA Web site, the rule set forth high speed and endurance test requirements which were stricter than the original tire safety and performance standard issued in 1968. It also contained a new low inflation pressure test to ensure a minimum safety standard for tires when they operate at 20 psi.
All bias-ply tires were exempted from the new rule, as were small trailer, retreaded and non-pneumatic spare tires. The agency, however, did not grant tire makers' requests for exemptions for specialty, snow and deep-tread radial tires.
An exemption for specialty radials is the difference between life and death for Denman, stated company President and CEO Charles R. Wright in his petition. Furthermore, including specialty radials in the new standard could actually hinder, rather than enhance, tire safety, according to Mr. Wright.
``By mandating new, more severe and expensive tire performance tests for limited production specialty radial tires, but not for bias tires, the agency is encouraging movement toward the manfuacturing of bias specialty tires,'' he wrote. ``Everyone agrees that bias tires constitute a lower technology than radial tires. These bias tires have lower traction and less strength.''
Laboratory endurance test requirements for light truck and deep-tread snow tires were a particular sore point for the RMA, JATMA and ETRTO alike. JATMA and ETRTO asked again for an outright exemption, while the RMA asked for the agency at least to amend the test procedure ``to produce results that correlate with real-world performance.''
The endurance test requirements will force tire makers to redesign deep-tread snow tires and LT tires simply to pass the test, said RMA President Donald B. Shea in his petition.
``These tire design changes will not improve but will, to the contrary, reduce snow traction and on- and off-road traction performance,'' he wrote. ``Snow tires and LT tires will fail the new endurance test primarily because of heat-related tread chunking. This condition is not seen in real-world endurance service conditions for these tires.''