After nearly a year, the nation's specialty tire makers still are waiting to hear from the government on whether they can gain exemptions to tough new tire testing regulations.
However, industry representatives continue to talk to government officials on the subject and feel confident their concerns are at least being taken seriously.
Denman Tire Corp. petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) last August, asking that radial specialty tires be exempted from the final tire testing rule promulgated June 23, 2003, under the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act.
The final rule set forth stringent high speed and endurance tests to replace those established in 1968. NHTSA exempted all bias-ply tires from the new rule, as well as small trailer, retreaded and non-pneumatic spare tires. However, the agency did not grant tire makers' requests for exemptions for specialty, snow and deep-tread radials.
Two Denman executives-Frank C. Randolph, vice president, quality and product technology, and Scott Tackett, vice president, human resources and administration-met with NHTSA officials June 9 to discuss the petition. Mr. Randolph and Mr. Tackett followed up June 25 with a summary of Denman's rationale for the exemption, addressed to H. Keith Brewer, acting director of NHTSA's Office of Crash Avoidance Standards.
``While TREAD Act legislation has required the agency to move rapidly, that does not justify placing limited production specialty radial tires under an arduous new standard, that will not in our opinion create a safety benefit for the public,'' stated the Leavittsburg, Ohio-based tire maker.
Unlike snow or deep-tread radials, specialty radial tires are seldom used on passenger vehicles and make up only one-eighth of the specialty tire market, which in itself is less than 1 percent of the total tire market, Denman noted. Requiring specialty radials to be tested like passenger radials would force Denman to test ``a significantly higher percentage of the tires it makes and at a significantly higher cost than any other tire manufacturer,'' the company said.
Denman was encouraged by the reactions of NHTSA officials at the meeting, according to Mr. Tackett. ``We believe they are sympathetic to this issue,'' he told Tire Business, though he added that they gave the company no indication of when to expect a ruling on its petition.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association, meanwhile, also is awaiting an answer to its petition to exempt snow and deep-tread radials from the testing standard, an RMA spokesman said.