WASHINGTON—The related issues of tire aging and tire safety are back in the mainstream news.
ABC News has resumed coverage of the alleged dangers of tire aging, at the same time that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched its TireWise consumer information campaign and website.
Meanwhile, both the Tire Industry Association and Safety Research & Strategies Inc. expressed dissatisfaction with the TireWise website that went online May 13.
The Tire Industry Association said the website creates the erroneous impression that tires are inherently dangerous, while Safety Research & Strategies Inc. said NHTSA didn't go far enough to make the website truly useful to motorists. The Rubber Manufacturers Association, however, called TireWise “a very strong attempt for NHTSA to provide useful information about tire care and maintenance.”
The ABC report on tire aging premiered on the May 14 broadcast of “Good Morning America.” The network rebroadcast the report on that night's “World News Tonight” and “Nightline.”
In the story, reporter Brian Ross told of fatal accidents caused by the failure of 8- and 10-year-old tires. He reports finding an 81/2-year-old tire at a dealership in New York state, a 9-year-old tire at a Rhode Island dealership, and tires 11 and 15 years old at dealerships in the San Francisco area.
Ross notes that the Big Three Detroit auto makers recommend removing tires at 6 years of age, and Michelin at 10 years. He also faulted the age information encoded in tire identification numbers as being difficult for consumers to interpret.
SRS President Sean Kane, a longtime advocate of tire aging regulations, is quoted in the story, as is Dan Zielinski, senior vice president of public affairs for the Rubber Manufacturers Association. Zielinski said no data to support an “expiration date” for tires exists, and that allegations that the tire industry is trying to hide tire age information is false.
The RMA, TIA and other tire industry groups have opposed tire aging legislation in Maryland and other states as both misinformed and unduly burdensome.
“We will always stand in opposition to onerous legislation, and we are proud of that,” Zielinski said after the broadcast. “Our job is to represent our members, and on this issue we have been successful.”
Regarding the broadcast, Zielinski said other news programs—including “20/20,” “CBS Morning News” and “Today”—previously have run stories about tire aging.
“Those stories are shown typically during Sweeps Week,” he said. “You think they would allow a better balance between the two sides in their stories.”
Meanwhile, NHTSA has conducted five phases of tire aging testing for light vehicle tires since 2002. Abigail Morgan, a NHTSA safety standards engineer, said in a speech last month at the Clemson University Tire Industry Conference that the agency will submit a report on its tire aging tests to its docket this spring.
NHTSA will decide this spring whether to begin rulemaking on tire aging, Morgan said.