Newsletter:Car Manufacturers must begin installing tyre-pressure monitoring systems in US vehicles by November 2003
There has been a varying reaction around the world to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ruling on tyre pressure monitoring systems and their implementation into the car safety system. This monthly newsletter outlines the main issues around tyre pressure monitoring, and gives other sources of information for digestion.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will by March 2005 determine which of two tire-pressure monitoring systems must be in every new US light vehicle starting November 2006. Automakers must begin installing tire-pressure monitoring systems in US vehicles by November 2003. They may choose between two types: systems with sensors in each wheel or systems that are linked with antilock brakes. Only 10 percent of new vehicles must have any system in 2003, but the percentage will increase for the next two years until NHTSA decides which system works best.
According to a NHTSA research survey, 27 percent of passenger cars on U.S. roadways are driven with one or more substantially under-inflated tires. In addition, the survey found that 33 percent of light trucks (including sport utility vehicles, vans and pickup trucks) are driven with one or more substantially under-inflated tires.
The agency also will conduct a study comparing the tire pressures of vehicles with no TPMS to the pressures of vehicles with the different systems. The study will give the agency additional information regarding the extent to which these vehicles have tire pressures closer to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure than vehicles without a TPMS, and also regarding the extent to which these vehicles have fewer significantly under- inflated tires. This will help NHTSA make a decision on the second part of the rule.
The main points of the ruling are stated below:
The Rubber Manufacturers Association, meanwhile, was displeased to find the final rule didn't even address its concerns that NHTSA's under inflation percentage parameters would leave motorists thinking dangerously under inflated tires are safe. The Tire Association of North America, which supports the RMA's call for a reserve inflation pressure capacity requirement for tires, also was disappointed. Public Citizen, the RMA and TANA are on opposite sides from the auto industry and the Office of Management and Budget, which forced NHTSA to consider the application of ''indirect'' monitoring systems to the final rule.
NHTSA is nearly seven months late issuing the standard, which was due Nov. 1 under the deadline set by the Transportation Recall Efficiency, Accountability and Documentation Act.
In its proposed rule, the agency favoured heavily a ''direct'' tire pressure monitoring system. In a Feb. 12 letter to NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, however, John Graham-administrator of the OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs-said his agency wouldn't sign off on the final rule unless NHTSA gave at least equal weight to indirect systems.
The final rule, as Runge said during congressional testimony in March, is a two-part affair. The first part, covering the period between Nov. 1, 2003, and Oct. 31, 2006, requires vehicle manufacturers to equip all new vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less with tire pressure monitoring systems.
That's what sources from the tire and auto industries to varying degrees and for varying reasons, are telling the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about its proposal to tighten federal tire performance standards.
These standards, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), could cost the industry more than $1.5 billion the first year and more than $400 million annually thereafter without providing any concrete safety benefits.
General Motors Corp. opposes the requirement to change the vehicle's normal load at each corner from 88 to 85 percent of the rated load of the tire at maximum inflation pressure. The RMA, however, not only supports the change but also says it doesn't go far enough, renewing its call for a tire pressure reserve load limit. Federal tire safety standards have not been revised since 1968, a fact emblazoned across newspaper headlines at the height of the Ford Motor Co.-Bridgestone/Firestone tire recall controversy. Less widely publicized was the RMA's petition to update the rule, which NHTSA granted in January 1999 but had yet to act on in August 2000 when BFS announced the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires.
Creating new tire performance standards was the major issue during congressional hearings that led to passage of the Transportation Recall Efficiency, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act in October 2000. The testing rules NHTSA proposed March 5 of this year, however, were met with raspberries from the tire and auto industries.
GROUNDS FOR MONITORING PRESSURE?
When the car pulled in at the tire shop on Henderson Boulevard on Tuesday, David Lane immediately recognized the problem: The woman's sidewalls and treads were worn.
Her tires had never been rotated. She had never checked them for air. Severely under inflated, they were dying at 36,000 miles, middle age for that type of tire. "I see it all the time," said Lane, who, despite being a Tire Kingdom sales associate, confesses to neglecting his own four wheels.
"Everybody procrastinates. I'm guilty of it. If they look low, sometimes I'll fill them. But when I leave work at 7, the last thing I want to do is check my air pressure."
Lane has plenty of company among American drivers - one-third of whom drive with at least one dangerously under inflated tire. That is why Washington is compelling automakers to install special devices to warn drivers of under inflated tires.
ASKING FOR TROUBLE
Improper pressures can cause tires to separate or blow out, causing the driver to skid and lose control. Improper inflation also can shorten the life of a tire and increase fuel consumption. Improperly inflated tires run hotter, wear faster and add to rolling distance. Sidewalls flex more. Stopping distances are greater. Potholes and curbs may be annoyances to a properly inflated tire, but they can wreak havoc on a tire that is not.
Blowouts or flat tires cause an estimated 23,500 smaller-vehicle crashes each year, nearly half of which involved problems with the tires on passenger cars.
The car industry successfully lobbied against the best form of automatic protection, sensors built into each wheel that transmits air pressure readings to the dashboard or rear-view mirror. Instead, under pressure from the Bush administration, highway safety regulators are giving car manufacturers the option of installing a less expensive monitor that indirectly infers problems with a tire.
"The direct system does have more accuracy and information," said John D. Graham, regulatory affairs administrator at the Office for Management and Budget, testifying before Congress. Car companies also lobbied to phase in the rules slowly because of costs, the complexity of making changes on assembly lines and the inability of factories to turn out the devices fast enough.
The new rule requires them to install monitoring systems on 10 percent of all light vehicles in the first year, 35 percent the next and 65 percent in the third year.
U.S. Rep. Clifford B. Stearns, R-Ocala, who leads the House energy and commerce subcommittee that oversees the highway safety group, has been critical of the agency's failure to move quickly.
Congress demanded 15 new rules after the Firestone scandal; only four have been finalized.
Standards for testing tires at higher speeds and greater distances are pending.
Stearns says the agency's slow pace sometimes fails to save lives.
With air pressure monitors, the requirement was finalized seven months behind schedule and likely will be reviewed in 2005.
Though unhappy with the pace, Stearns is pleased to see action.
"The sooner we can have these systems required on vehicles, the better."
Published reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), University of Pittsburgh and others resulted that: 26% of all passenger cars and 31% of light trucks (SUVs, minivans and pickups) have at least one tire that is 30% below placard pressure. Yet, this 30% under inflation point is where NHTSA requires tire-monitoring systems in new cars to give alarms. If the tire executives are correct, one of every four vehicles manufactured, beginning in 2003, will face a greater risk of tire failure and permanent tire damage, not less.
Source: Automotive News Europe, June 17, 2002, Monday, Pg. 24, 174 words. HEADLINE: Supply line.