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Smithers prepares to comply with new NHTSA tire testing rules

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Smithers Scientific Services Inc. has made preparations to provide testing in accordance with the new and more stringent tire performance requirements issued June 23 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"We have traditionally provided compliance and research testing for a variety of clients, including NHTSA, as well as the tire manufacturers and raw material suppliers, and we expect to do the same with the new standard," says Michael Hochschwender, CEO and president.

Smithers conducts compliance tire testing at its indoor laboratories in Ravenna, Ohio, and materials testing on tire components at its Akron, Ohio, laboratories. In addition, tire performance tests and evaluations are conducted at the company’s winter test facility near Sault Sainte Marie, Mich.

All manufacturers who build tires for light vehicles must comply with NHTSA's newly finalized tire testing standards within four years.

The standards apply to all radial tires for use on passenger cars, multi-purpose passenger vehicles, trucks, buses and trailers that have a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less and have been manufactured after 1975.

Under new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 139, NHTSA has made changes and/or adjustments in the following categories:

1. High speed and endurance. Tires will now be evaluated at over 50% more distance than the current tests call for.

2. Low inflation pressure performance. NHTSA is adopting a low inflation pressure test that will "ensure a minimum level of inflation at which tire pressure monitoring systems will be required to be activated." It is designed to replicate the conditions of long-distance travel.

3. Applicability. For the first time ever, NHTSA is requiring that light trucks have a specified tire reserve. The agency also is "extending the tire performance requirements for passenger cars tires to LT tires (load ranges C, D, and E) used on light trucks."

NHTSA is retaining old road hazard impact and bead unseating standards for the time being; however, it will continue to evaluate them.

The agency also has declined to implement tests to measure the deterioration of tire performance due to aging, but "is commencing its own research" on the process and says it will probably propose an aging test within two years.

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