WINNIPEG, Manitoba (March 15, 2004) — Tire makers and marketers in Canada, concerned about possible negative effects new U.S. federal tire testing procedures might have on winter tires, are lobbying Canada's highway traffic safety agency, Transport Canada, to urge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to re-examine certain testing methods in the new regulations.
The tire makers and marketers are concerned because some engineering studies have indicated a third or more of winter tires currently for sale in Canada might not pass more stringent laboratory speed and endurance tests prescribed in the new regulations under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 139, according to Glenn Maidment, president of the Rubber Association of Canada (RAC).
The RAC, with the backing of the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), approached Transport Canada last year with their concerns, Mr. Maidment told dealers attending the recent Tire Dealers Association of Canada national meeting in Winnipeg.
Canada has perhaps the most to lose of any country in the world if the FMVSS 139 standards are not amended, Mr. Maidment said, because winter tires represent a higher percentage of total aftermarket shipments—approximately 25 percent and growing—than any other country.
The particular concern is that the regulation's step-up speed/endurance test as written will cause the treads of heavy-lug-type tires—light truck tires as well as some snow tires—to chunk. The type of chunking seen in preliminary tests is not representative of real-world situations, particularly regarding winter tires that are built to operate at low temperatures and usually are not speed-rated to run at high speeds.
The new FMVSS testing regulations were designed in part to weed out tires that would be susceptible to tread separation, but Transport Canada also is concerned about not having to sacrifice winter traction.
“It's a complicated issue,” said Dan Davis, chief of standards at Transport Canada. “We never have the kind of extreme heat conditions here that drivers experience in, say, Arizona in the summer, so tread separations are rather rare here.
“At the same time though, you could never guarantee that a driver here might not travel to the southern U.S. during the winter.”
Transport Canada is only in the early stages of looking at this issue, Mr. Davis said, and has not yet made any formal approach to NHTSA.
The RAC hopes to persuade Transport Canada to add its voice to objections already raised by the RMA, Japan Automobile Tyre Manufacturers Association (JATMA) and European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO) that few if any deep-lug snow and light truck tires would pass the new endurance test requirements.
JATMA and ETRTO sought outright exemptions from the rule, while the RMA asked for amendments “to produce results that correlate with real-world performance.”
In the high speed test, for example, tire makers would have to test their tires at speeds of 88, 94 and 100 mph, compared with the current standard's requirements of 75, 80 and 85 mph. The proposed new endurance test increases the required speed 50 percent, to 75 mph from 50. It also increases duration to 40 hours from 34 and distance to 4,800 kilometers from 2,720.
The endurance test requirements will force tire makers to redesign deep-tread snow and LT tires simply to pass the test, RMA President Donald B. Shea said in the association's 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.”
The RAC is forecasting 8-percent growth this year for snow tires in Canada, to 4.79 million units, outstripping overall aftermarket passenger and P-metric light truck tire growth of 2.3 percent. As a result, snow tires would represent nearly 29 percent of Canadian aftermarket shipments, up from about 27 percent last year.
Nearly two-thirds of the winter tires shipped in Canada are sold in Quebec, RAC figures show, where winter tires represent about half the aftermarket. This contrasts markedly with Ontario and the western provinces, where snow tires are only about 12 percent of the market.