Safety Research & Strategies has urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to add Tire Identification Numbers to a newly mandated web portal to identify recalls.
In September, the agency published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the possible changes to the provisions regarding Early Warning Reporting data. It also proposed requiring automobile manufacturers to submit Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) of specifically recalled vehicles, and maintain records of the recall remedy status of each specific vehicle. This was a requirement of the Motor Vehicle Safety Improvement Act, contained within the highway re-authorization bill known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, MAP-21, for short.
The recall statute mandates that NHTSA require that motor vehicle safety recall information be made available to the public on the Internet, and authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to require each manufacturer to do so. In the NPRM, NHTSA explained that it already had a website where consumers can look up recalls by vehicle make and model, or by the recall campaign number. It proposed to simply add a VIN field to its current search capacity.
The authors of MAP- 21, however, forgot to require the same of tire manufacturers. SRS has submitted comments to this docket suggesting that the agency add a TIN-look-up, along with a VIN.
The omission is another sad chapter in the history of the Tire Identification Number (TIN) and tire safety. The Tire Identification Number has its origins in a Rubber Manufacturers’ Association strategy to seize the regulatory reins from the National Highway Safety Bureau, predecessor to NHTSA, as the tire identification standard was promulgated more than 40 years ago. It was established to help consumers identify tires in a recall. But, as is the case in many rulemakings, industry fought hard to mold the regulations to its own ends and convenience. Continue reading
In April, materials scientist John Baldwin bluntly schooled insiders at the annual Tire Industry Conference about things the rubber industry has known for decades from its own internal research. He pointed out that relying on tire tread depth to determine the viability of a tire is a bit of a crapshoot:
“In the tire industry, a lot of decisions are based on tread depth,” he said. “But what is the significance of tread depth? There is uneven wear on damn near every tire.”
He took note of the unsafe practice of rotating unused, but old spares onto vehicles:
“The average full-sized spare tire is nine years old,” he said. “You can tell your tire store to take that perfectly good spare tire and put it on your car. But if you’re in Yuma or Miami, do you really want that nine-year-old spare going on? “Meanwhile, the average mini-spare is 12 years old. That means you’re screwed.”
And he took exception to what he calls the Rubber Manufacturers Association’s (RMA) mischaracterization of his tire aging research for Ford Motor Company. Continue reading
It was all hands on deck yesterday afternoon at the Maryland House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee as tire makers and retailers tried to beat back another state effort to require tire sellers to disclose a tire’s age to consumers.
HB 729, Consumer Protection – Tire Age – Required Notice, requires tire sellers and distributors to place a label on the tire displaying the month and year in which the tire was manufactured and a statement about tire age and tire deterioration. The tire seller would also have to put the tire’s age on the receipt and have the customer sign a written disclosure about tire age. Customers would receive a copy of the disclosure, and the retailers would retain a copy of it for an unspecified amount of time. The penalty for violating the statute would be not more than $500. Continue reading
A federal judge in Atlanta has ordered to Michelin North American to pay attorneys’ fees and established that a Uniroyal Laredo Tire was “defective and unreasonably dangerous” as a sanction for nearly two years of discovery abuse.
“In sum, Michelin’s bad faith conduct caused serious prejudice to the integrity of the legal process and to Plaintiffs’ orderly, effective development and proof of their case,” U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, of the Northern District of Georgia, wrote in her 61-page decision. “The pattern of abuse by Michelin is extremely troubling.”
Judge Totenberg’s patience was pushed past its limits in Bates v. Michelin North America, a tread separation case. In November 2009, Johnny and Patricia Bates of Evergreen, Alabama sued Michelin North America for negligence and strict liability in a tire-related rollover crash. On December 25, 2008, Johnny Bates was belted and at the wheel of his 2001 GMC Jimmy travelling northbound on I-85 in Fulton County, Georgia, when the left rear tire, a Uniroyal Laredo suffered a tread separation. The tire failure caused a loss-of-control rollover, leaving Mrs. Bates with injuries. Mr. Bates suffered catastrophic and permanent spinal and brain injuries that have left him a quadriplegic.
The Atlanta firm of Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer LLP, who represented the Bates family, requested that Michelin produce, among other things, warranty adjustment data, design and production tolerances and documents relating to specific defects. But, after a year of wrangling over confidentiality and the scope of the request, Michelin had only produced a “strikingly small” number of documents. On January 3, 2011, the Court ordered Michelin to produce all of the documents the Bates family sought. Michelin petitioned for reconsideration, and, after losing that round, continued to withhold the documents. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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.
In the former case, the RMA helped craft a tire fuel efficiency testing and grading and a consumer education provision in the Energy Bill of 2007. Smith was underwhelmed by the RMA’s role in a measure he called unnecessary and unfounded on any science.
Then Smith shakes Sean Kane in the association’s face on tire age, but even Kane “pounding the industry about old tires going bad,” barely rouses it. Despite, “countless lawsuits…alleging that older tires – six years or more in chronological age – failed and maimed or killed people; despite “Kane-led” attacks, bad press, proposed state laws, the RMA has only managed to burp out one squishy statement questioning the science behind tire age. Retailers are left to control the damage over the store counter.
Well, Mr. Smith, SRS knows a challenge when we hear one.
Read Smith’s Editorial in Tire Review
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: Continue reading
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.” Continue reading
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.”
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.