Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., (BFS) today released 166 of the 168 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) vehicle owner questionnaires (VOQ) that led to last Friday's announcement of a preliminary evaluation of the Steeltex R4S and Steeltex AT light truck tires. We are releasing the 166 that have been supplied to BFS. NHSTA is still processing the remaining two.

While the reported incidents date back to 1994, all but two were reported to NHTSA after August 9, 2000, when BFS instituted its voluntary safety recall of all Firestone P235/75R15 ATX and ATX II tires and P235/75R15 Firestone and Wilderness AT tires produced in Firestone's Decatur, Ill., plant. All were received in 2000.

After an initial review of the data by BFS, it is clear why the Department of Transportation, NHTSA, the Rubber Manufacturers Association, Bridgestone/Firestone and others support changes in how this data is collected, analyzed and reported.

The review of this information makes it apparent that the initial data collection, provided by the VOQs, does not give a clear path to determine whether a problem exists. For example:


* Some of the VOQs relate to a tire and size which were the subject of a previous recall on the Ford F-250, F-350 and F-450 in December of 1997 due to tire damage caused at the Ford Assembly plant. At that time,Ford initiated a tire replacement program through Bridgestone/Firestone retailers.

* Two VOQs list vehicles for which the Steeltex R4S and Steeltex AT light truck tires will not fit:
* 870358 (appears to be listed as a Dodge Monaco)

* 727657 (appears to be listed as a Chrysler Le Baron)

* One VOQ (869433) is listed as a Honda Civic, which gives a tire size that is not a Steeltex size (P175/70R13) and refers to the tire simply as a "steel belted radial."

* Other complaints are e-mail messages to NHTSA with no relevant data.

* On many forms the DOT numbers are not listed and the tire location is missing. DOT numbers are important because that will indicate where and when a tire is made.

* On one VOQ the information provided appears to say that the tire was original equipment and that the tire had 91,000 miles on it. Most tires should be replaced at between 40,000 and 60,000 miles.


The legislation pending before Congress is designed to address the issue of ensuring the collection of better and more complete data that will be meaningful to consumers, manufacturers and regulators, including NHTSA.

More broadly, BFS strongly supports Congressional passage of the goals of early reporting requirements, increased monitoring by NHTSA, and enhanced labeling standards in the transportation recall legislation (S 3959 and H.R. 5164).