AKRON—Compliance with federal tire safety standards is mandatory, but not always easy—especially when different governments have different standards.
This was the message of three government and industry experts who spoke at the International Tire Exhibition & Conference in Akron Sept. 9-11.
The purpose of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is simple and clear, according to Jack Chern, NHTSA safety compliance engineer.
“Our mission is to reduce deaths, injuries and economic loss from vehicle crashes,” he said.
In support of that mission, NHTSA establishes and enforces regulations involving tire and vehicle safety, including rules for consumer information, recordkeeping, data submission and safety recalls, he said.
Self-certification is a key concept within NHTSA, according to Chern. Tire and vehicle manufacturers are responsible for testing their own products to assure compliance with safety standards; to recall or withhold from sale any products that have safety defects or don't meet federal standards; and to submit to NHTSA any information that might indicate the presence of safety defects or noncompliance.
Tire and vehicle manufacturers are expected to exercise “due care” in ensuring compliance with all NHTSA regulations, Chern said. Those that don't face penalties of up to $7,000 per noncompliant tire or vehicle, up to a maximum of $35 million, he said.
In the case of imported tires, the importer is the manufacturer of record, he said. This can create major problems for importers who don't keep close watch on foreign manufacturers, he said, especially if the manufacturers:
• Do not file the necessary paperwork with NHTSA, or file incomplete reports;
• Confuse NHTSA's assignment of a plant code with NHTSA approval or endorsement;
• Do not understand that Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards are minimum standards;
• Do incorrect or inadequate performance testing; or
• Do not exercise due care in assuring that defective or noncompliant tires are not shipped to the U.S.
One of NHTSA's most constant concerns is trying to increase the rate of tire registration, which has been very low for more than 40 years, Chern said. Tire registration is the surest way of locating a tire in case of a recall.
“In my opinion, to get the dealers who sell the tires to register them is the best way,” Chern said. However, Congress banned mandatory tire registration in the 1980s at the behest of tire dealers.
“It's a Catch-22 situation,” he said.
NHTSA is in the process of requesting information from tire manufacturers and dealers as to how they meet their registration obligations, he said.