The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued 30 new DOT tire plant codes-needed for selling tires in the U.S.-during 2003, including 18 to companies representing Chinese tire makers and two to factories in Russia.
There are now 138 tire factories in China with a DOT new tire plant code, according to the Transportation Department's database-three times the number of only four years ago. These include seven to companies in Shandong Province.
The latest list from the DOT shows 687 codes issued, including 152 issued in the past four years.
The DOT symbol indicates the tire maker certifies the tire meets all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard requirements, according to transportation department documents.
The manufacturer is not required to test the tires, but if they are sold in the U.S. they are subject to random testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with penalties assessed if the tires aren't in compliance with federal standards.
Tires found not in compliance with these federal standards will be recalled, and the manufacturer is subject to civil penalties of up to $5,000 per tire, up to a maximum of $15 million for any related series of violations, according to agency documents.
Of the 687 codes listed, 111 are for plants that are closed and 28 are for factories that don't make tires or make only bicycle tires.
Officially, the transportation department keeps codes for closed or sold plants in its active list for up to eight years after a change occurs, covering the limit of legal jurisdiction the DOT has to order a recall.