WASHINGTON—Importers of Chinese intermodal truck tires are having problems because of tires that don´t meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations for sidewall markings.
The tires meet and sometimes exceed U.S. Department of Transportation standards for safety and durability, the importers said. But because they don´t have the DOT-mandated single load carrying designation and bear the wording, "FOR DUAL TRAILER USE ONLY," some customers are refusing them or demanding changes.
"We have some customers who are making us re-brand the tires," said Richard Kuskin, president of Union, N.J.-based Foreign Tire Service Inc. "We haven´t done that yet, and it would be very expensive, but we´ll do it if we have to, even though we don´t think it´s necessary."
Munroe Mariner, president of China Manufacturers Alliance L.L.C. in Pocomoke, Md., explained the situation in a Feb. 22 letter to George Feygin, a NHTSA official who no longer works for the agency.
"The intermodal segment of the trucking industry is unique in the fact that these trailers, more commonly known as container chassis, operate a minimal number of miles annually, and due to the conditions at the ports are destroyed at a very high percentage," Mariner wrote.
The bias-ply tires made for container chassis use are different in tread width and depth from conventional bias-ply truck tires, he said. It is important that these tires should never be mounted on steer axles.
Because of this, Mariner mistakenly directed the Chinese tire makers he represents to leave off the appropriate branding on the sidewalls of intermodal tires.
After Mariner sent the letter, he said, a NHTSA official called him informally to tell him the agency planned to take no action regarding the mislabeled tires.
"It wasn´t a safety issue, just a labeling issue," Mariner said. Moreover, the Chinese tire makers corrected the labeling as soon they realized the error.
But many of the mislabeled tires still are on the market. Because NHTSA declined to issue public notice that the error was inconsequential, some buyers are turning up their noses at the mislabeled tires, Mariner said. He claims people are using the situation to avoid payment or to buy tires far under the market price.