WASHINGTON—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a proposed rule amending the format of tire identification numbers molded into tire sidewalls for identification purposes in safety recalls.
NHTSA wants to change the two-symbol code for plant identification to a three-symbol code, and also wants to standardize the length of TINs at 13 symbols for new tires and seven for retreads.
The agency published its proposal in the July 24 Federal Register.
NHTSA is running out of two-symbol plant codes for TINs, necessitating the change to three symbols, the agency said in the July 24 document.
“This shortage has arisen because of the increase in tire manufacturers,” the agency said. “This increase is projected to continue.”
NHTSA issued 24 new plant identity codes in 2013, twice as many as in 2012 but roughly average for the past five years, according to a Rubber & Plastics News article that appeared in February 2014.
Tire retreaders currently use a three-symbol plant code in their TINs, and to date have used only about 5,800 of the 27,000 possible permutations of three symbols, NHTSA said.
“At the current rate of new (retread) plant code issuance, the agency will not run out of three-symbol manufacturer codes for decades, if not longer,” it said.
TIN lengths are not currently standardized, and a TIN for a new tire can be anywhere from eight to 13 symbols in length, according to the agency.
“Because both a full TIN and partial TIN may be eight symbols in length, it may not always be clear whether an eight-symbol TIN obtained from one side of a tire…is a full TIN or a partial TIN,” the proposal said.
If made final, the rule would become effective immediately for new manufacturers or new plants by existing manufacturers, NHTSA said.
Existing plants would have a five-year phase-in period for using three-symbol plant codes and standardized 13-symbol TINs, the agency said.
“For existing manufacturers currently using two-symbol plant codes, we recognize that immediately requiring the use of a three-symbol plant code and standardized TIN length would impose additional costs with little benefit,” it said.
NHTSA granted only half as long a comment period as usual—30 days, or until Aug. 25—for this proposed rule. Because this proposal is only a technical change for an existing rule, the agency said, it doesn't believe a 60-day comment period is necessary.
Dan Zielinski, senior vice president of public affairs for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, said the RMA would discuss the NHTSA document with its membership July 28 in its regular weekly telephone call to members.