Last month, I wrote about the National Traffic Safety Board’s (NTSB) decision to study tire safety related issues in more detail during the next year. One of the issues that the NTSB announced that it was going to study is the effect of aging on tire durability. Since that time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that it could decide as early as next spring whether to pursue rulemaking on tire aging. NHTSA officials informed an audience at the 30th annual Clemson University Tire Industry Conference that tire “age” rulemaking could be an important part of long awaited tire labeling and consumer information rules.
For well over a decade, consumer advocates have argued for a better means for consumers to determine tire age and establish an “expiration date” for tires. Most consumers have no idea how to determine the age of their tires and do not understand the dangers of using older tires, even ones that have never been used. While NHTSA has studied the issue of tire aging, it still has not adopted long-needed consumer-friendly labeling and aging rules and guidelines for consumer safety.
Since 2002, NHTSA has run five separate phases of tire aging tests on light vehicle tires beginning when agency crash data suggested a trend of higher rates of failure among older tires. Based on its studies, NHTSA confirms that the material properties of tires degrade over time and can compromise a tire’s structural integrity. NHTSA has also found that the relationship between tire age and tire failure seems particularly strong in warm-weather states such as Arizona, Florida, Texas and Southern California.
Automobile manufacturers are almost united in adopting a six-year age limit for tires. Most tire manufacturers set limits of 10 years. Service centers that place older tires on vehicles that later fail and cause injury often point to the lack of NHTSA rulemaking as a defense. We have seen too many clients hurt because of tire aging failures. Hopefully, NHTSA will finally take the appropriate steps and adopt aging rules similar to the car makers as a benchmark for consumer safety. If you need more information on this subject, contact Rick Morrison, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rick.Morrison@beasleyallen.com. Rick has been handling cases involving this issue and is quite knowledgeable on the subject.
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