Tire industry organizations around the globe continue discussions on international harmonization of tire safety standards, according to the head of the U.S. tire manufacturing association, but it could be some time before concrete proposals come out of that.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), the European Tyre & Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO), the Japan Automobile Tyre Manufacturers Association (JATMA) and the Bureau Liaison des Industries du Caoutchouc (BLIC) had their last scheduled meeting in February, and none is scheduled in the near future, according to Donald B. Shea, RMA president.
``But Steve Butcher (RMA vice president-technical and standards) met more recently with the ETRTO, and I'm on the phone frequently with my counterparts overseas,'' Mr. Shea said.
International harmonization of standards has been a hot topic in the tire industry at least since 1997, when the organizations started meeting under the aegis of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD), an initiative of the Clinton administration to harmonize business regulations in general. The TABD negotiations proved the basis for a new tire testing standard-to replace the one promulgated in 1968-that the RMA submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in January 1999.
NHTSA, however, still had not ruled on the RMA's petition when Congress passed the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act in October 2000.
Among other things, the TREAD Act mandated NHTSA to promulgate a new, more stringent tire testing rule, which it did in June 2003. The RMA, the ETRTO, JATMA and specialty tire maker Denman Tire Corp. still are waiting for the agency to rule on their petitions for reconsideration of the standard.
The TREAD Act is one of the major topics of discussion between the organizations, Mr. Shea said. Connected with the TREAD Act is tire aging-testing for which was rejected by NHTSA from its testing standard. No one agrees yet on the parameters.
``What is the approach that needs to be taken on tire aging?'' Mr. Shea asked. ``And there are also international environmental issues, ranging from scrap tires to aromatics.''
Part of the problem with devising international plans of action on tire issues, he added, is the essentially different approach to rulemaking between the U.S. and other parts of the world. ``In Europe, the approach to issues is more regulatory than here,'' he said. ``The approaches that need to be taken in both areas may not be completely consanguine.''
When asked if there are any current proposals for harmonization of standards, Mr. Shea said: ``Nothing that's ripe for more than internal discussion. Drafts can take on a life of their own if revealed too soon and can cast a pall on free and open discussion.''