US motorists should find it easier to locate critical information about their tyres under new rules issued by federal regulators on Monday in response to the Firestone tyre debacle of two years ago, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters, from September 2003, vehicle manufacturers will be required to standardise the location of more colourful notices on recommended tyre pressures, placing them on the driver-side door pillar.

A year later, Reuters said, tyre makers will be required to phase in mandatory placement of the tyre identification number and the date of manufacture on both sides of a tyre to help consumers more easily see if their tyres are subject to a recall.

Reuters said that most of the rules, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, were required by legislation passed by Congress in 2000 in response to the failure of certain Firestone tyres that were mostly fitted to Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles.

Deaths and injuries linked to the tread separations and blowouts led to recalls of millions of tyres made by Firestone, a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corporation, Reuters said.

"This is a terrific remedy for the often-confusing information now labeled on tyres," NHTSA administrator Jeffrey Runge said in a statement, according to the Reuters report.

Reuters said that some tyre identification information is currently often only available from the side of the tyre visible from under the vehicle while vehicle makers put recommended tyre inflation notices in a variety of locations, including the glove box and the boot.

"We were amazed how many people in our research didn't even know that the thing existed, never mind where to find it," Roger Kurrus, who oversees NHTSA's consumer communication campaigns, told Reuters.

According to Reuters, the new NHTSA rules also include a requirement that vehicle manufacturers put more tyre safety information in the owner's manual, including a discussion of the importance of correct tyre inflation and the consequences of under-inflation.

Reuters said the changes in display of tyre identification information will be phased in beginning with the 12 months starting September 1, 2004, when 40% of tyres must comply. Seventy percent would have to conform over the following year and all tyres would have to meet the new rules by September 1, 2006, Reuters added.

The gradual phase-in of the new tyre requirement would allow manufacturers time to make new moulds with the identification and date of manufacture on both sides, an NHTSA official told Reuters.

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