The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) decision not to seek a safety standard based on tire age is good news for the tire industry as well as for consumers.
Now tire manufacturers, distributors, tire dealers and vehicle owners won't have to focus on when the tires they are selling, distributing, mounting and using were made or be overly concerned that they may be unsafe based solely on their age.
The decision removes what would have been a huge and unnecessary logistics burden for the manufacturing, distribution and selling process, not to mention created concern among vehicle owners, where there should be none.
Still, the fact NHTSA doesn't see a need for a safety standard does not relieve parties of responsibility as tires agea point the agency made in its Tire Aging: A Summary of NHTSA's Work.
It noted that because tire aging is a concern for spare tires and in hot-weather states, it is coordinating an initiative to heighten consumer awareness about tire-aging issues and how to prevent tire failures related to aging.
This is a cause all tire dealers should embrace as a service to their customers and as responsible business operators. There continues to be a huge information gap in consumers' understanding of tires and their service life. Tire dealers are in the best position to help improve this situationand allay customers' fears about the age of their tiressince they deal with the tire consuming public on a daily basis.
NHTSA decided not to seek a safety standard after conducting five phases of tire-age testing, beginning in 2002. Ultimately the agency came to the conclusion that today's tires are more robust and more resistant to degradation than tires manufactured prior to the implementation of the Transportation Safety Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000.As a result, no standard is necessary.
This is one good outcome of the TREAD Act, as is the mandated use of tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) on all vehicles fitted with light vehicle tires since 2007 to alert drivers of underinflation, a condition that also can degrade tires. The TREAD Act has forced tire makers to build better, safer tires, NHTSA said, and provided a system to warn drivers when their tires are underinflated.
Still, as TPMS maker Schrader International Inc. found in a recent survey, 42 percent of drivers in North America can't identify the TPMS dashboard signal, and of those who do know, 17 percent admit to having ignored it.
This is the weakness of the TREAD Act and overshadows the improvements and safety features now required of today's tires and vehicles.
That's where continued education must enter the picture.