WASHINGTON (July 9, 2008) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's latest consumer advisory on tire safety represents a small but notable change in the agency's stance on tire aging, according to a consumer advocate with strong ties to plaintiffs' attorneys.
NHTSA and the Rubber Manufacturers Association disagree with the advocate.
NHTSA said the summer advisory is routine and signifies no major change, and the RMA said it's simply a consumer guide toward tire safety and fuel economy.
“The risk of a serious crash during hot weather can be heightened by tires that are worn out, underinflated or too old,” the NHTSA advisory issued June 2 said. “To reduce the risk of a crash, NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason urged motorists to have tires, including the spare, checked before embarking on a vacation journey.”
The press release gives specific advice on checking tire inflation and age. It also notes some tire and vehicle manufacturers recommend removing tires after between six and 10 years and advises consumers to check with manufacturers for guidance.
For years, various scientific and industry sources have linked tire aging with tire failure, according to Sean Kane, president of Rehoboth, Mass.-based Safety Research & Strategies Inc.
“What was missing from that position was notification to consumers,” said Kane, who has petitioned NHTSA for years to establish a rule requiring the removal of tires from vehicles after six years. “This is the first time we've seen that. It's a significant step.”
A lot of older tires, particularly spares, are put into service by tire dealerships and other service providers, according to Kane. He said he hoped the message about tire aging would be heeded in the tire service community.
“Watch the spares in particular,” he said. “They're the most important to watch because they look like new in many cases.”
An NHTSA spokesman said the new consumer advisory was the first to mention tire aging in an advisory specifically related to tires, but not the first altogether.
An RMA spokesman also found nothing exceptional in the consumer advisory.
“We view the advisory as a helpful reminder to motorists to care for their tires properly,” he said.