Early Warning data Prompts Another Bridgestone/Firestone Recall

For the second time this year BFS has recalled tires allegedly based on unfavorable early warning data-the data that manufacturers are required to provide NHTSA following the Ford/Firestone recalls and the subsequent TREAD Act. This time BFS is recalling 250,000 Bridgestone Dueler A/T 693 replacement tires, size LT285/75R16, Load Range D, made in Tosu, Japan (plant code “EJ”), beginning in July 1, 1998 through July 31, 2002. The company estimates 27,000 are left in service.

Despite NHTSA assertions that portions of the TREAD data would be available for public scrutiny, the agency reneged on this promise and is now facing litigation vying for its release. NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson claims “There is more than ever out there for consumers, as much as anyone could want.” Tyson asserts “If we let all of the information be made public, it would have a chilling effect on the data we get. If, for example, warranty data got out, manufacturers might quit offering warranties or quit handling problems via warranty.”

In a press statement BFS indicated

“Recent data reviewed as part of the company’s early warning system suggests that a small percentage of these tires may experience belt detachment, especially if they have been operated below recommended inflation pressures for the load carried by the tire or above recommended loads. A belt detachment of this kind can, in rare instances, lead to a loss of control of a vehicle and a possible crash.”

The company also claimed that performance of the recalled tires differs from other Dueler tires, including those of the same size and type that were manufactured after July 31, 2002. BFS in an August 20, 2004 letter to NHTSA states that the recalled tires are not defective, but the company is “taking this action . . . to avoid potential future issues.”

Once again the public has no means to verify or assess the data that led to this recall. We are expected to accept the manufacturer’s judgment and that of under-staffed, under-funded agency that regulates them. Given BFS’s past record, and despite the many talented and knowing staff members at NHTSA, this is a dangerous policy that affects the public’s oversight and ability to monitor important safety matters.

Yes Mr. Tyson, there is indeed more information than ever before, but we are left wanting as the public still doesn’t have access to it.

Copyright © Safety Research & Strategies, Inc., 2004