WASHINGTONThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued amendments to several of its highway safety program guidelines, including those for periodic motor vehicle safety inspections.
NHTSA published the revised guidelines for safety inspections in the Nov. 29 Federal Register over the protests of organizations such as the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), the Tire Industry Association (TIA), the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) and Advocates for Vehicle & Highway Safety (AVHS).
All of those organizations wanted stronger language regarding inspections. According to NHTSA, all of them believe (safety inspections) should be performed annually and disagree with NHTSA's recommendation for periodic inspections.
They expressed concern that the revised language could impact the effectiveness of the guideline if states moved from a required annual inspection to longer intervals between inspections, the agency said.
However, NHTSA disagreed, saying the decision of times between inspections should be left up to the states.
Nothing in the revised guideline would prevent a state from maintaining an annual inspection process, the agency said. NHTSA believes the research on the general effectiveness of (safety inspections) is inconclusive, and does not warrant a more prescriptive approach.
Whereas advocates of annual safety inspections cite results of studies performed in Pennsylvania and Missouri, a similar study performed in Norway showed no safety benefits from requiring annual inspections, NHTSA said.
In their combined comments from July 20, 2012, the RMA and TIA cited the Pennsylvania and Missouri studies, and also noted that only 19 states currently have any safety inspection requirements at all.
Tires are the only part of a vehicle to touch the road, the associations said. Tires that are underinflated, overloaded, worn or damaged are at risk of failure that can lead to a crash.
While an annual vehicle inspection that includes tires will not completely reverse such widespread neglect of tire maintenance, it can both reduce the incidents of tire failure and help educate more motorists about the importance of tire care, they said.
The RMA and TIA suggested NHTSA explore the idea of incentive grants to persuade states to establish safety inspections, as well as withholding federal highway funds from states that don't have inspection programs.
However, NHTSA rejected this suggestion. The new requirements for tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), coupled with existing criteria for inspections, makes further action unnecessary, it said.
In its July 20, 2012, comments, the AAIA noted the Pennsylvania study's assertion that safety inspection rules in that state prevent 115 to 169 fatal crashes every year.
Without the recommendation that inspection procedures equal or exceed criteria issued or endorsed by NHTSA, and by changing the frequency recommendation for inspections from annually to periodic, the guideline loses some of its possible impact, the association said.
Other guidelines NHTSA updated in its Nov. 29 notice included those for motor vehicle registration and crash investigations. A new guidelineolder driver safetywas added. All of the new guidelines became effective on the date of publication in the Federal Register.