Importers of Chinese intermodal truck tires are having problems because of tires that don't meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations for sidewall markings.
The tires meet and in some aspects exceed U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) standards for safety and durability, the importers told Tire Business. But because they do not have the DOT-mandated single load carrying designation and bear the wording, ``FOR DUAL TRAILER USE ONLY,'' some customers are refusing them or demanding changes.
``We have some customers who are making us rebrand the tires,'' said Richard Kuskin, president of Union, N.J.-based Foreign Tire Service Inc. ``We haven't done that yet, and it would be very expensive, but we'll do it if we have to, even though we don't think it's necessary.''
Munroe Mariner, president of China Manufacturers Alliance L.L.C. in Pocomoke, Md., explained the situation in a Feb. 22 letter to George Feygin, a NHTSA official who no longer works for the agency.
``The intermodal segment of the trucking industry is unique in the fact that these trailers, more commonly known as container chassis, operate a minimal number of miles annually and due to the conditions at the ports are destroyed at a very high percentage,'' Mr. Mariner wrote.
The bias-ply tires made for container chassis use are different in tread width and depth from conventional bias-ply truck tires, he said. It is important that these tires should never be mounted on steer axles.
Because of this, Mr. Mariner mistakenly directed the Chinese tire manufacturers he represents to leave off the single load carrying designation and place, ``FOR DUAL TRAILER USE ONLY,'' on the sidewalls of intermodal tires. He did not realize, he said, that DOT regulations require the single load carrying designation and don't address tires manufactured for dual trailer applications only.
After Mr. Mariner sent the letter, he said, a NHTSA official called him informally to tell him that the agency planned to take no action regarding the mislabeled tires.
``He said the agency had no desire to raise a public issue, which meant a recall,'' Mr. Mariner said. ``It wasn't a safety issue, just a labeling issue.'' Moreover, the Chinese tire makers corrected the labeling as soon as they realized the error. ``I haven't seen a mislabeled tire come in from China since April 1, 2006,'' he said.
But many of the mislabeled tires are still on the market. Because NHTSA also declined to issue any public notice that the error was inconsequential, some buyers of intermodal tires are turning up their noses at the mislabeled tires, or worse, according to Mr. Mariner.
``Some people are using this as a means to avoid payment, or to leverage a deal to buy the tires at way under market price,'' he said. ``A man who owes me $180,000 for intermodal tires called me up and said, `I want to know about these illegal tires I bought.'''
In the absence of any public word from NHTSA, the importers of the mislabled tires are just trying the best they can to let their customers know they are perfectly safe, according to Mr. Mariner.