Passed by Congress in October 2000, the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act continued to make headlines in 2004.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seemed unable to please any of the stakeholders in any of the TREAD Act-related rulemakings it issued.
One example was the ``early warning'' rule, which requires all auto, tire and parts manufacturers to send to NHTSA's database any information that might indicate the possibility of a product defect. In the original version, the agency granted confidentiality to production, warranty and consumer complaint data; in April, it extended that protection to common green tire lists, which cover basic tire constructions for various tire models and brands.
This ruling angered consumer group Public Citizen, which sued NHTSA in federal court to force release of all early warning data. It also irked the Rubber Manufacturers Association, which filed a cross-claim in the Public Citizen suit to make all early warning data confidential.
In September, NHTSA issued a second final rule on tire pressure monitoring systems, after a federal court overturned the first version. The new rule, as the court demanded, did not show favoritism to systems that measure tire pressures indirectly. However, the RMA hated that the regulation still allowed tire pressures to fall 25 percent below the vehicle manufacturer's recommendation before motorists were warned. The association and its friends renewed their call for a minimum reserve pressure requirement to counterbalance the 25-percent threshold.
An agency official said in May it planned to propose a federal tire aging test by June 2005. This wasn't enough, however, for Safety Research & Strategies Inc., a Massachusetts-based group that petitioned NHTSA in November to establish expiration dates for tires.
This proposal was similar to one by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio. The RMA said the variables involved made such a rulemaking speculative at best, while the manufacture date molded on every tire also made it unnecessary.
Meanwhile, specialty tire manufacturers have waited for more than a year for NHTSA to answer their petition for an exemption from tire testing rules. Without this exemption, they said, many specialty tires will be forced from the market.