WASHINGTONThe tire registration and recall process is broken, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the agency has 11 sweeping recommendations to fix it.
Mandatory point-of-sale tire registration, electronic means of capturing registration information, full tire identification numbers (TINs) on both sidewalls and easy-to-use safety recall lookup sites are among the major recommendations made by the NTSB in the special investigation report on passenger vehicle tire safety it approved 4-0 at a public meeting Oct. 27.
The current tire registration process has proven to be ineffective in enabling tire manufacturers to compile complete and accurate customer contact information, which is vital to ensuring the success of a tire recall, the NTSB said in the conclusions in its report.
The board issued only its conclusions, recommendations and executive summary at the meeting at its Washington headquarters.
Release of the full report is expected in the coming weeks.
The NTSB does not set standards or help write legislationit can only make recommendations. It is then up to agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to act on their own.
Granted, NTSB recommendations carry considerable weight in government circles, but in the end they are recommendations without legislative or administrative authority.
Responding to the ag-ency's recommendations, TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield said he feared the NTSB and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would try to force the inefficient, paper-based registration system of the 1970s back down the throats of independent tire dealers.
That system ended when Congress passed the Surface Transportation Act of 1982.
The NTSB estimates that 33,000 tire-related crashes occur anually, accounting for more than 19,000 injuries, officials said at the public meeting. In 2013, the agency claims 539 people died in tire-related accidents.
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 makers.
The recommendations to NHTSA were:
c To seek authority to require all tire dealers to register tires at the point of sale;
c To develop voluntary standards for a computerized method of capturing, storing and uploading tire registration information at the point of sale;
c To include fields for email addresses, telephone numbers and vehicle identification numbers on tire registration forms;
c To require tire manufacturers to include complete TINs on both outboard and inboard sidewalls;
c To require tire manufacturers to put recall information on their websites in formats searchable by TINs;
c To modify the NHTSA tire recall search feature to allow consumers to look up tires by TIN as well as by brand and model;
c To 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;
c To 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
c To 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 Sum-walt 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, he 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 recommendationsTIN lookups and mandatory registrationare 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.
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