AKRON, Ohio: The Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company confirmed today (21/11/00) that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will conduct a preliminary investigation into its Load Range E light commercial tyres.

The investigation will cover tyre information that Goodyear supplied to NHTSA two weeks ago as part of an informal information exchange.

In a statement the company said: "Goodyear has always voluntarily cooperated with NHTSA by providing information promptly and thoroughly to assist the agency's efforts.

"The company constantly monitors the performance of its tyres and is confident that, put in proper perspective, all of Goodyear's Load Range E tyres on the road today have excellent durability and performance."

The statement also said that Goodyear is always looking at safety and performance data and "recognises that there may be trends that if spotted early, can signal the need to improve our products".

The Load Range E tyres are heavy-duty tyres made primarily for commercial vehicles, including light trucks, vans and trailers but rarely found on SUVs or other consumer vehicles. In the past 10 years Goodyear has manufactured more than 27 million such tyres and estimates that half are still on the road.

"The tyre tread separations in question are the most common form of failure on all Load Range E tyres, and can be caused by a variety of things including low air pressure, over-weight vehicles and damage from road hazards and debris," the statement said.

"Whenever Goodyear sees an unusual pattern of customer inquiries about any of its products it immediately launches a thorough investigation. After such a pattern appeared involving Load Range E tyres in 1995, three separate teams of Goodyear engineers spent almost two years looking into every aspect of the materials, design and manufacture of these tyres.

"After testing and re-testing every possible scenario, they found nothing wrong. What they did discover was an evolving trend toward larger vehicles and a growing tendency to put heavier loads in those vehicles which meant the tyres were sometimes carrying heavier loads than their capacity allowed."

Goodyear responded to the evolving usage by adding a nylon overlay to new Load Range E tyres. By last spring all of the range had this new overlay, making them even more durable at heavier loads.

Goodyear also claimed that the increased speed limits in many US states, from 55 mph to 70-75 mph, may be a factor in an increase in incidents involving its tyres.

"In addition to the potential of additional heat build up by the tyres at higher speed in loaded conditions, you also have the impairment of a driver's ability to control a vehicle if he or she encounters a "tyre-related" situation such as a road hazard at the higher speeds," the statement said.

"Goodyear urges drivers to check tyre pressures frequently and never exceed load limits."

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more