AKRON (Jan. 15, 2007) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) decision to deny the inconsequential noncompliance petition of Union, N.J.-based Foreign Tire Sales Inc. regarding mismarked Chinese-made tires sends a strong message to all companies importing tires into the U.S.
The tires had better meet Department of Transportation (DOT) standards or they likely will be denied sale in this country, and importers may be forced to recall them.
This decision comes at a time when more U.S.-based tire production is being shifted offshore and more foreign tire makers and marketers, including many from China, are looking to increase or initiate sales in the U.S.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), which opposed Foreign Tire Sales' request for inconsequential noncompliance, has made compliance with DOT tire standards a top priority.
The association wants to ensure that every tire company, including those importing tires into the U.S., meets all safety and performance standards as required by NHTSA and the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act.
The issue regarding Foreign Tire Sales involves 18,900 truck tires imported in 2005 and 2006 that did not comply with labeling regulations requiring the sidewall to display a maximum load rating and inflation value for single tire use. The company maintains there is no safety issue relating to single use applications, since the tires are clearly labeled “Dual Use Only” and “Trailer Service Only,” and that its “customers understand that said tires are to be used on container chassis only.”
NHTSA disagreed, stating “there is no guarantee these tires may not eventually be placed on a single-load application, since the tires are capable of being mounted and used in that manner.”
Using these tires in a single-load application, NHTSA said, “could lead to confusion because the consumer would not be presented with the relevant information regarding the load-pressure relationship suitable for such application. In turn this situation could lead to possible overloading of the tire, because the operator would be forced to attempt to independently calculate the maximum load rating for the tire in a single-load application.”
Foreign Tire Sales may well be right in its position that the lack of the NHTSA-required single load-carrying designation on the tires would have no safety implications. It has one more chance to appeal its case to NHTSA and should that fail, it would have to recall the tires.
Regardless of the final outcome, the message is clear. NHTSA's responsibility is to uphold federal safety regulations designed to protect the motoring public. Anyone shipping tires in or to the U.S., whether made domestically or imported, had better comply with those standards.