Tire Known Unknowns: Decoding the Date

Human Factors researchers at the State University of North Carolina have recently concluded that consumers can’t read the date of manufacture obscured by the week and month configuration dictated by the Tire Identification Number (aka the DOT number).

Researchers Jesseca Taylor and Michael Wogalter asked 83 test subjects to translate tire markings as represented by different date configurations, ranging from the conventional month/day/year (12/05/07) to the DOT code’s four-digit week-year (2205). Effect of Text Format on Determining Tires’ Date of Manufacture, accepted by Annual Proceedings of 55th Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, found that when consumers chose to translate the different four-digit representations into a month and year, they consistently failed to understand that the first two digits represented the week of manufacture.

The DOT number, an alpha-numeric code found on the tire sidewall, has consistently confused consumers and tire professionals. The last four characters of the 11-character code contain the week and year the tire was made. For example, 0302 signifies that the tire was made during the third week of 2002. (Tires made prior to 2000 used a three-digit date configuration at the end of the DOT code.  In those cases, 039 signifies that the tire was manufactured during the third week of 1999 – or the 1989.)  No participant in Taylor and Wogalter’s study correctly identified examples such as 03/01 or 1102. They confused the first two digits with the month itself, for example, identifying “03” as March, instead of realizing that the third week of the year falls in January.

15 Passenger Vans: Still Dangerous After All These Years

Saturday’s 15-passenger van crash that killed six and injured eight members of a Bronx church is a somber reminder that the vehicle remains the only one in the U.S. fleet today that is deadly if used as a 15-passenger van. NHTSA long-ago whiffed on recalling the unstable vehicles, instead relying on manufacturers’ good intentions and consumer warnings, and the preventable carnage continues.

The 1997 Ford Econoline van, loaded with 14 members of the Joy Fellowship Christian Assemblies and their luggage, was on its way to a church event in Schenectady, NY when the left rear tire failed on the New York Thruway. The van rolled over, scattering occupants and suitcases on the median.

Goodyear G159 Tire Failures on RVs Finally Dragged Into the Public Eye

Goodyear’s G159 and a Class-A Motor Home was always a bad match. The tire was designed for urban delivery vehicles and speed-rated for only 65 mile per hour continuous use.  Nonetheless, Goodyear had marketed the G159 to the RV industry for nearly a decade in the 1990s and 2000s, even though the tire design was prone to overheat on RVs that typically travel at greater speeds for extended periods. Goodyear knew it was dangerous for motor homes, but didn’t want lose a market segment. So, in 1998, after speed limits increased nationwide, Goodyear bumped the speed rating of the G159 to 75 miles per hour.

By 1999, there had been two recalls and one Product Service Bulletin to replace G159 tires on RVs, but the recalls blamed inadequate load margin and customer misuse, and did not identify the tire design itself as defective. In fact, Goodyear has consistently assured the public that the tires are safe for all uses.

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby! The Pneumatic Tire

Have you heard the one about The Pneumatic Tire? If you’re involved in tire litigation, the defense may have waved this august tome in front of a judge claiming that it is the Tire Bible handed down from on high by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, itself.

And this would be somewhat true. In 2005 NHTSA did contract J.D. Walter and Alan Gent of the University of Akron to act as assembling editors for a low-budget update of the 1981 edition of the Mechanics of Pneumatic Tires. With a total project cost of $89,575, Walter and Gent recruited top-level executives in the tire industry – including the good folks at Cooper Tire—to serve as authors and members of the editorial board.  The work was to have been thoroughly vetted at the agency, but according to several sources, NHTSA passed a very light hand over the project and the final version consisted of a wholesale borrowing from the original, complete with decades old data, with some new chapters added to reflect technological advances.

We'll Just have to Work Harder...

Just when we thought we’d stirred the pot but good, Jim Smith comes along to set us straight. In a scathing Tire Review editorial, editor Smith takes aim at industry leader, the Rubber Manufacturers Association for leading the retail side of the industry off a cliff on two important issues: tire fuel efficiency and tire age.

Kane Calls Assembly Vote on California Tire Age an Important First Step

SRS President Sean E. Kane hailed the California state assembly vote yesterday on AB496 Tire Disclosure Age bill, which cleared the state assembly, 48-21. The bill requires retail tire dealers to disclose the age of a tire to consumers in writing before the sale or installation of a tire.  Along with the tire age, dealers must provide the following statement about the increased hazards of aged tires:

Surrender Dorothy!

The California Tire Age bill passed the state assembly yesterday 48-21 and that loud pop you may have heard was the sound of the Rubber Manufacturer's Association's head exploding.

While it wasn't as good as a rant as one from the Tire Industry Associations' Roy Littlefield, the immediate response from the tiremakers trade group wasn't far off (RMA Press Release). Dan Zielinski, RMA senior vice president of public affairs, panted about the bill's proponents using "fear-mongering to allege that tires reaching a certain chronological age are dangerous."

You Like Me. You Really Like Me.

Bob Ulrich delivered a bouquet of compliments to Sean Kane in Modern Tire Dealer's latest edition. Entitled, "Sean Kane's Passion Trump's the Industry's Inaction," Ulrich opines that Kane has been an amiable and effective, if misguided, advocate for tire aging. It opens thus:

"I like Sean Kane. Over the phone he comes across as a likeable guy with an admirable agenda: He wants to improve the tire purchasing experience for consumers."

Tire Dealers Freak Out Over Consumer Education Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Tire retailers are in the midst of an oh-my-gosh-the-sky-is-falling meltdown over a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tire maintenance public education program. Specifically, the retail arm of the tire industry is quivering over the possibility that groups outside of the industry would be tapped to run it.

Safety Research & Strategies Raises Tire Age Profile in California; Tire Aging Consumer Disclosure Bill Clears Committee

SACRAMENTO, CA - One of the nation's first laws to require tire dealers to disclose the age of each tire prior to sale or installation cleared an important hurdle Tuesday, when the California state legislature's Assembly Business and Professions committee passed it by a vote of 6 to 4.

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