Officials from Hoosier Racing Tire, Denman Tire Corp. and Specialty Tires of America (STA) are protesting proposed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rules designed to establish more stringent tests for new pneumatic tires used on motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or less that were manufactured after 1975.
Proposed testing requirements, "if applied to every tire manufacturer without due consideration of the manufacturer's size, annual specialty tire production and market served, will place an unnecessary burden on and deal a devastating economic blow to the specialty tire industry," Hoosier management said in a prepared statement.
"This adverse impact will affect tens of thousands of specialty vehicle owners, small business distributors, dealers and retailers, and a host of other ancillary and supporting industries."
New standards would drive up specialty tire manufacturers' costs "dramatically," Hoosier officials say, which would, in turn, boost retail prices.
"Other, less costly -- but also less appropriate -- tires will be substituted...(which) may result, ironically, in decreased safety."
The TREAD (Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) Act, which has spurred the new proposals, is "geared to a class of tires and vehicles that are quite different than the specialty markets we serve," say Denman officials.
"The events leading to the enactment of the TREAD Act warrant a 'raising of the bar' for the mass-produced highway vehicle and its OE tires," but testing procedures for those types of tires are "simply not applicable to limited production specialty tires."
NHTSA's plans to create identical performance standards for both radial and bias tires are "wholly inappropriate," according to STA representatives.
The agency's proposals are "the result of field experience with and testing of radial tires. No testing was performed upon bias-ply tires."
The characteristics of radial tires "differ significantly" from those of bias tires, say STA officials.
Excluding temporary spares, only 2.1 million --less than 1% of all tires classified for passenger cars and light trucks -- contain bias-ply construction, they argue.