Judge Orders NHTSA To Revisit Early Warning Records Rulemaking

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V3 Issue 3, May/June 2006

Washington, D.C. - A U.S. District Court judge has kicked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration final rule on the confidentiality of records submitted under the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act back to the agency. On March 31, Judge Robert Leon found that NHTSA "pulled a switcheroo" when it published its Business Information Confidentiality rule regarding the confidentiality of defect-related information in the early warning database established under TREAD nearly three years ago, and did not allow adequate opportunity for public comment.

Rubber Makers Claim Survey of Scrap Tires Show Age Doesn't Determine Tire Life

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) presented NHTSA with the results of a scrap tire survey claiming that the results show chronological age doesn't determine tire service life. The association presented the data at the recent government - industry meeting in an attempt to address the continual questions about tire service life and the necessity of expiration dates.

The survey was based on tires removed from service in five geographical regions of the U.S. The RMA collected information on randomly selected trailer loads of scrap tires from scrap tire processors' facilities. A total of 14,271 tires from seven locations were examined for the date code, repairs, tread wear, and road damage.

Cooper Tire Subverts Evidence, Investigative Process, Attorney Alleges

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V. 3 Issue 3, May / June 2006

Did Cooper Tire knowingly hire a felon convicted of insurance fraud charges to spirit away physical evidence of failed tires before police investigators or plaintiffs' attorney could collect or analyze then? And where is a key piece of evidence in a 2001 tread separation case that was taken from the accident scene?

These are the questions plaguing Loza V. Cooper, a Phoenix rollover case, set for trial this September. In September 2001, Elisa Loza was the rear-seat passenger in a 1996 Ford Super Club E350 with Cooper-made Hercules all-track radial LTs. Her husband was driving on a highway near Gila Bend, Arizona, when, her estate alleges, a Cooper tire experienced a tread separation. Mrs. Loza died in the rollover accident that resulted.

Federal Government Increasingly Uses Pre-Emption to Bypass State Laws

Consumer and state government groups are becoming alarmed at a surge of regulations and bills designed to protect industry, while usurping stronger state regulations and consumers' rights in state courts through pre-emption clauses and laws.

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Newly Released Documents and Data Highlight Explorer Rollover Problems

Six years ago, Ford Motor Company laid the blame for Explorer rollovers on defective Firestone tires, but newly available data shows that even with replacement tires, tire-related rollover crashes in Explorers are growing and internal documents unearthed during recent litigation show that the popular SUV's stability problems are also rooted in vehicle design.

Two Tire Makers Add Tire Aging Replacement Guidelines for U.S. Market

Continental and Michelin recently issued Technical Bulletins on tire aging, joining a growing chorus of tire manufacturers and automakers issuing tire age replacement guidelines for the U.S. market. These bulletins are nearly identical to the Bridgestone-Firestone October 2005 recommendation that specified all tires should be removed after 10 years regardless of the remaining tread depth. They also follow guidelines published in overseas markets that have been in circulation for several years (Safety Record V3, Issue 1).

States Rights Advocates Attack NHTSA Roof Crush Preemption Proposal

A provision in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's proposed roof crush standard that would preempt state tort law would transfer the societal costs of caring for rollover crash victims to the states, discourage manufacturers from improving vehicles' crashworthiness and usurp Congressional authority, a diverse group of influential commenters has argued.

For the first time in 32 years, the NHTSA is proposing to strengthen vehicle roofs and extend the standard to cover vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 10,000 pounds, as part of an alleged "comprehensive plan for reducing the risk of death and serious injury from rollover crashes." The proposed regulation would increase the force that vehicles are required to withstand from 1.5 to 2.5 times their unloaded vehicle weight and replace the 22,240 Newton maximum force limit for passenger cars. It would also change the certifying test from the current plate movement limit of 5 inches with a new direct limit on headroom reduction. (See The Safety Record, V2, I4).

Court Will Hear Public Citizen's Motion To Unseal Volvo Documents

A Florida judge has granted the advocacy group Public Citizen a hearing next month to determine if the court should again make public "critically important auto safety documents" on roof strength that helped the plaintiffs win a $10.2 million verdict in Duncan v. Ford.

The Number of Tire Age Recommendations Grows: Bridgestone-Firestone is the Latest Entry

Tire age degradation hit the radar of safety advocates, regulators and members of Congress following the Firestone ATX / Wilderness recalls in 2000 and 2001 when experts concluded that age degradation played a role in the catastrophic failure of these tires. Since the recalls Safety Research & Strategies (SRS) began examining what was known about the issue worldwide and found startling evidence that both tire and vehicle manufacturers have known tires, whether or not they are actually used, can experience tread separations due to internal oxidative aging, a process that is largely invisible. Following SRS' docket submissions to NHTSA about their findings and an active campaign to alert the public of the danger through the media, some manufacturers have quietly started to address the issue.

NHTSA Launches Quiet Campaign to Protect Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. - If you didn't already know it was there, you might have missed it entirely in the 45-page proposal to upgrade the roof crush resistance standard: a one-sentence clause tucked in Part 13 amid federal boilerplate, indemnifying manufacturers who met the proposed standard from lawsuits alleging a defect.

Known as a preemption clause, NHTSA's August 19 proposal was the second time in as many months the federal agency has wrapped civil justice reform and auto safety standards into one package that is rousing the ire of consumer advocates, plaintiffs' attorneys, and those concerned about Federalism and cost of care transfer from the industry to the public sector.

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