Last month, I wrote about the National Highway Transportation Authority’s (NHTSA) announcement that it was considering adopting a safety standard based on tire age. Unfortunately, NHTSA has already decided that it will not. In doing so, NHTSA has ignored an important safety issue for consumers, and the tire industry is applauding the decision.
NHTSA, in declining to establish badly needed tire-age standards, said that, “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 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 (TREAD) Act of 2000 have helped make tires more robust.
• Second, light vehicle tires are performing better on the road as reflected in our most recent crash data.
• 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.
Instead, NHTSA claims that it will begin a campaign to educate consumers and tire centers as to how to prevent tire failures related to aging, especially in hot-weather states where aging failures occur more frequently. The NHTSA campaign remains to be seen. However, the agency’s decision ignores two basic realities.
• First, tire age can only be determined by deciphering the cryptic code on the tire’s sidewall. Until there is some requirement that tire makers provide an easier way to determine tire age, most consumers will not know how to determine their tire’s age to help prevent aging failures.
• Second, and most important, the tire centers have been warned for nearly a decade of aging issues and have chosen to ignore warnings and recommendations about placing aged tires into service.
It should be noted that in the cases lawyers in our firm have handled the tire centers use NHTSA’s failure as a defense. They say they haven’t adopted safety policies concerning aged tires because NHTSA has declined to adopt an official safety rule. As a result, we are still seeing large tire centers placing tires on vehicles that are very dangerous because of their age.
With its decision, NHTSA has once again failed to establish badly needed safety rules that the tire industry should follow relative to consumers and tire age safety issues. NHTSA’s decision has made the tire maker’s trade association, the RMA, very happy. Daniel Zielinski, RMA’s senior vice president of public affairs, said the agency’s decision was “good news for the tire industry.” Unfortunately, the decision is very bad news for tire safety and consumers. I suspect we will continue to see good folks hurt and killed because a tire failed due to age.
If you need more information on the above subject, contact Rick Morrison, a lawyer in our Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rick.Morrison@beasleyallen.com. Rick has handled a number of cases involving the aged tire issues and will be glad to talk with you.
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