WASHINGTON—The Rubber Manufacturers Association is hailing as good news a decision from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it will not seek to create a safety standard based on tire age.
“At this time, the agency does not believe it is necessary for motor vehicle safety to add a tire aging requirement to its light vehicle tire standard,” NHTSA said in the executive summary of its report, “Tire Aging: A Summary of NHTSA's Work.”
NHTSA gave three reasons for its decision. First, current tire safety standards—which NHTSA revised as a mandate of the Transportation Safety Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act of 2000—have helped make tires more robust, the agency said.
Oven-aged tires compliant with the new standards are more resistant to degradation than oven-aged tires manufactured before the new standards went into effect, it said.
“Second, light vehicle tires are performing better on the road as reflected in our most recent crash data,” NHTSA said. “Third, a mandatory TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) on light vehicle tires since 2007 has helped alert consumers to underinflation that is also known to degrade tires faster.”
Because tire aging is a concern for spare tires and in hot-weather states, NHTSA is coordinating an initiative to raise consumer awareness about tire aging issues and how to prevent tire failures related to aging, the agency said.
“Campaign initiatives and outreach efforts to consumers, partners and the automotive service industry will include social media messages, fact sheets, infographics and other web content,” it said.
The report was dated March 2014 and was placed in the NHTSA docket in May. Abigail Morgan, a NHTSA safety standards engineer, said at the Clemson University Tire Industry Conference last April that her agency would decide this spring whether to pursue a tire aging standard.
Daniel Zielinski, RMA senior vice president of public affairs, said the NHTSA report was good news for the tire industry.
The RMA and its members have commented extensively to NHTSA during the long process of tire aging tests, Zielinski said during a July 11 conference call on the NHTSA report and other issues. The agency has conducted five separate phases of tire aging tests since 2002.
“Over time, the agency was not able to articulate, at least to us, what the benefits of a tire aging rule would be,” he said. “They believe tires are performing better than ever, because of the new safety standards.
“I would add that the evolution of tire technology has also played a role, as manufacturers strive to improve tire performance,” Zielinski said.
The NHTSA report has nothing to do with the ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigation of two February 2014 crashes allegedly involving tire failure, Zielinski said in response to a question. The two crashes, both involving tires made by Michelin North America Inc., caused multiple deaths.
The NLRB investigation covers all aspects of tire performance, not just tire age, he said.
During the call, Zielinski said the RMA will continue to pursue passage in various state legislatures of legislation designed to get unsafe used tires off the road.
The RMA came close to success when it got its used tire language attached to a state budget bill in South Carolina, according to Zielinski.
“We came within two days of getting it passed, but then the language was stripped out,” he said.
The association will continue to seek passage of a used tire bill in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, Zielinski said.
Meanwhile, the RMA succeeded in getting language added to the newly passed Colorado scrap tire management bill that makes it illegal to sell an unsafe used tire in the state, according to Zielinski. Colorado defines an unsafe used tire as whatever would cause a tire to fail a state safety inspection, he said.
Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies Inc. in Rehoboth, Mass., and a longtime advocate of tire aging standards, could not be reached for comment on the NHTSA report.