Remember way back in 2000, when Congress was pummeling the tire industry in the wake of the Ford/Firestone rollover scandal? Or perhaps you've been trying to forget those difficult days for tire manufacturers?
A decade later, there still are reverberations from those times. They'll probably always be felt.
The latest noise is a proposed revision to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 119. This rule—which took nearly a decade to get to this stage—calls for tougher endurance tests for tires used on heavy trucks and proposes a new high-speed test for heavy radial truck and bus tires, among other things.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposal had plenty of input from the tire sector, primarily from the Rubber Manufacturers Association. Some of the tire industry trade group's recommendations were accepted, others not, but there is no hue and cry against the new rules.
And there won't be any in the future, if proposed tire regulations have anything to do with safety. Industry input to shape the rules, and perhaps some disagreement with the outcome, certainly, but dedicated campaigns to halt regulations, no way.
The late 1990s-early 2000s tire recalls that resulted in the TREAD Act—which spawned the latest proposed regulation—affected all tires makers. Trial lawyers discovered an opportunity in the tire industry and targeted the manufacturers with product liability suits, deserved or not. It was ugly.
Today the situation is much different. The TREAD Act puts burdens on the tire industry, for sure, but that doesn't mean they are onerous. The early warning requirement, for example, seems to be effective in preventing bigger problems.
No one is saying the new truck tire testing standards are a bad idea, either. Tire and vehicle technology and use constantly are changing, and regulatory response is necessary.
It's how things are now, and how they'll be in the future.