“We cannot change what happened in the past, and we cannot bring back the 539 fathers, mothers, sons, daughters and friends who lost their lives due to tire causes in 2013,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart in his closing statement, “but action on today's recommendations can help bring those numbers down in future years.”
The NTSB issued nine recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one to AAA and the Rubber Manufacturers Association, and one to the major U.S. tire manufacturers.
The recommendations to NHTSA were to:
- Seek authority to require all tire dealers to register tires at the point of sale;
- Develop voluntary standards for a computerized method of capturing, storing and uploading tire registration information at the point of sale;
- Include fields for email addresses, telephone numbers and vehicle identification numbers on tire registration forms;
- Require tire manufacturers to include complete TINs on both outboard and inboard sidewalls;
- Require tire manufacturers to put recall information on their websites in formats searchable by TINs;
- Modify the NHTSA tire recall search feature to allow consumers to look up tires by TIN as well as by brand and model;
- Determine the level of crash risk associated with passenger tire safety and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) standards, and implement plans to promote the tire aging test protocol if tire safety and TPMS results show tire aging risk should be mitigated;
- Develop a consensus document on tire aging with tire makers, auto makers and safety advocates that includes best practices on how to mitigate tire aging; and
- Work with auto and tire industry representatives to develop a tire safety action plan that promotes technological innovation.
The NTSB recommended that the RMA and AAA work together to evaluate the effectiveness of current tire safety efforts. To tire makers, it recommended that they put tire safety recall information on their websites in formats searchable by TIN as well as brand and model.
NTSB members expressed dismay at the meeting about the ineffectiveness of the current registration and recall system. According to the report, whereas the recovery rate in vehicle recalls is about 78 percent, the recovery rate in tire recalls is only about 44 percent, of which 24 percent are accounted for by natural attrition rather than positive responses to recalls.
NTSB Member Robert Sumwalt said the report motivated him to change the tires on his car the day before the meeting. The tires had been driven only 18,000 miles, Mr. Sumwalt said, but they had been manufactured nine years ago and had been on the car seven years.
“You don't wait six or seven years to change your oil,” he said.
The report was based on NTSB investigations of four tire-related fatal crashes, and on a resulting symposium the board held in December 2014 seeking industry, government and safety advocate recommendations on how to improve tire safety.
Daniel Zielinski, RMA senior vice president-public affairs, said his association found it encouraging that the NTSB agreed with a number of the RMA's recommendations, especially tire registration by dealers, recall search engines based on TIN lookups, and consumer education.
“Two of our recommendations — TIN lookups and mandatory registration — are being debated in Congress right now,” Mr. Zielinski said.
Regarding tire registration rates, Mr. Littlefield claims the 50 largest independent tire dealerships have the same 100-percent registration rate as company-owned stores.
“I can't believe this industry thinks that the best solution to this problem is to hand it over to a government agency,” he said. “This is 2015, not 1982. We have technology that works. To go back to that archaic system would be a disaster.”
Sean Kane, founder and president of Rehoboth, Mass.-based Safety Research & Strategies Inc., agreed with Mr. Littlefield that a return to a mandatory registration system would be both inefficient and an unfair burden on independent dealers.
“The most important part of the report is its recommendations on electronic systems,” Mr. Kane said. “Without up-to-date technology, none of it will work. A manual system would be fraught with error.”