RMA supports federal tire labeling decision

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The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) is pleased that the final tire labeling regulation mandated by the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act is, for its purposes, one-sided.

The new federal regulation will require that all new vehicles beginning with the 2004 model year have tire inflation pressure and vehicle load information in the same location on one side of the tire, with only partial information on the other sidewall.

An earlier proposal by federal regulators that would have required printing the same information on both sides of the tire was modified to protect tire factory workers, according to the RMA.

The regulation also mandates a consistent size for characters printed on tire sidewalls to enable motorists to more clearly read the information.

"Making vehicle tire inflation pressure information easier to find is a positive step in helping motorists keep their tires properly inflated," says Ann Wilson, the RMA's senior vice president of government affairs.

In comments filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) early last year, RMA expressed strong concerns regarding the location of the Tire Identification Number (TIN). The TIN is a number on each tire that communicates information about where the tire was manufactured and when.

The RMA and its members told the agency that putting the TIN on both sides of a tire could pose a safety risk to workers in tire manufacturing plants.

During the tire production process, if the full TIN were required on both sides of the tire, factory workers would, in many instances, have to physically enter a tire mold to alter the date code for the second side. The RMA argued that since such molds can reach temperatures of 300 degrees Fahrenheit, it would pose a significant worker hazard.

"NHTSA's leadership listened to tiremakers' safety concerns and even visited tire plants to see how tires are made so they could make an educated decision on this issue," she adds.

Under the final rule, NHTSA requires the full TIN on one side of the tire and a partial TIN -- minus the date code -- on the other side of the tire.

Tiremakers must begin phasing in the new sidewall labeling requirements in September 2004, when 40% of all new tires must comply with the rule; 70% must comply by September 2005, and all new tires must comply in 2006.

"This compromise will help motorists more readily determine whether a tire is involved in a recall," says Wilson.

NHTSA also proposed the elimination of a requirement that passenger car tires used on pickup trucks, vans and SUVs carry 10% less load than the same tires may carry when used on passenger cars.

In its remarks to NHTSA, the RMA said it opposes elimination of that requirement "because light trucks cause higher stress on tires due to higher centers of gravity and often have more severe service conditions as compared to passenger cars. Additionally, light trucks and SUVs have a greater potential for overloading due to open cargo areas and increased likelihood of towing."

NHTSA says a final decision on this issue will be announced when the agency finalizes another rule pertaining to revised tire testing and performance standards.

"Tiremakers strongly believe that the current regulation that restricts the load on passenger tires when used on light trucks and SUVs is an important pro-safety rule," according to Wilson. "Eliminating that requirement could contribute to increased instances of overloaded tires, which can cause tire failures on light trucks and SUVs that use passenger car tires."

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