Give Denman Tire Corp. a break. That's what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should do by exempting specialty radial tires from new tire testing provisions.
Specialty radials are different from other radials, and Denman is unlike other tire makers.
NHTSA shouldn't turn a deaf ear to Denman's claim if it has to test specialty radials under the new standards it will go out of business. This is not hysteria-it's reality.
Denman is not a billion-dollar tire company cranking out millions of passenger and truck tires, it's a small-scale business that makes products the big tire makers don't want to bother with. The company has one plant, built in 1919, and the fact it still is functioning demonstrates Denman's unique nature.
Denman's radials-special classic tires, antique replicas and tires for modified vehicles-aren't the high-volume, passenger and light truck tires that certainly needed new testing procedures. These specialty tires are a miniscule portion of the tire market and have no particular reputation for failure.
There's been no outcry to change the way these tires are tested. Rather, an extraordinary number of customers e-mailed NHTSA asking for an exemption that would cover such tires, and a variety of politicians and trade and technical associations jumped in with their support.
Denman and two other specialty tire makers-Hoosier Racing Tire Co. and Specialty Tires of America Inc.-got relief from NHTSA when the agency dropped bias-ply tires from the new testing provisions. NHTSA should take the next logical step, and exempt specialty radials, too.