Tire Aging: What Regulatory Changes are Being Made?
At the Society of Automotive Engineers’ annual government-industry conference, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety standards engineer presented a summary of the agency’s tire aging work, although they are not producing and regulatory changes.
The issue began back over ten years ago with the Ford Firestone rollover scandal. Although the Firestone tires met federal safety requirements, they were de-treading at high rates after several years in service. Congress who suggested that the agency consider the feasibility of a tire aging test did not make any policy recommendations.
In a slide from NHTSA‘s Dr. Merisol Medri’s presentation was this statistic: “Based on analysis of data from 2005-2007 including databases (NMVCCS, GES,CDS), 90 fatalities and over 3,200 injuries occurred annually as the result of crashes that were probably caused by tire aging or where tire aging was a significant factor.” This slide combined with the Research Report to Congress on Tire Aging (that from 1994 to 2004, NHTSA estimates that about 400 fatalities annually may be attributed to tire failures of all types) show that with rough math about a quarter of annual tire-related fatalities are due to tire age.
With an upgrade in tire performance standards required by the passage of the TREAD Act, death and injury claims have significantly dropped since 2003. The only problem with this is that more robust tires have failures that occur later in the tire life. With the only action being a recommendation to replace your tires every six years, there is a great deal of room for accidents to occur.
In 2006, Goodyear Tire made a proposal that would ensure the destruction of tires removed from customer vehicles in their retail store. “This shift in focus for tire disposal is in response to a growing concern that ‘used’ tires are becoming an unsafe alternative for consumers to cut costs. Currently 8-20% of Goodyear scrap tires that are disposed of at Goodyear locations find their way to a tire re-seller and this is a way for waste management companies to generate revenue to offset rising operating costs. Although re-sellers can provide a warranty for these used tires, Goodyear takes responsibility to properly dispose of these scrap tires to insure the public’s safety.” Goodyear has still not acted on this proposal.
The Tire Industry Association and the Rubber Manufacturers Association are pushing a bill in the Maryland legislature that prohibits auto and tire repair shops from fixing tires unless they demount them from the rim and inspect the tires’ interiors and exteriors. The bill is still in the hands of the Maryland House Committee on Economic Matters and is scheduled for a hearing next month.
Source: Safety Research and Strategies, Inc. “Tire Aging: Is NHTSA Ready to Make Policy?” February 13, 2013.