Tyres will have to meet stiff new safety standards by 2007, including the ability to pass tougher high speed, endurance and low inflation tests, United States federal safety regulators said on Monday, according to a Detroit News report.

The newspaper said the new federal tyre standards are the first since 1967 and noted that, after the Firestone tyre crisis erupted, Congress ordered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to strengthen standards covering tyres on new cars and trucks.

The tests will apply to nearly all new tyres for use on passenger cars and light trucks up to 10,000 pounds, the Detroit News said.

The paper said tyre manufacturers, which will have until June 2007 to comply, have expressed concerns in recent months about the cost of re-engineering tyres to meet the standards. On Monday, tyre makers were still analysing the potential impact of the 120-page NHTSA report, Dan Zielinski, spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Alliance, told the Detroit News.

“We are happy with aspects of it,” Zielinski reportedly said. “There are certainly other areas where we don’t agree.”

The Detroit News said NHTSA estimated that up to 11% of tyres will have to be re-engineered to meet the new standards. The new requirements are expected to cost tyre makers $US31.6 million and prevent at least four deaths and 102 injuries each year, NHTSA reportedly said.

The Detroit noted some key aspects of the new rules:

– For the first time, tyres on light trucks such as pickups, sport utility vehicles and minivans will face the same standards as tyres on passenger cars.

– New low inflation standards are aimed at ensuring that tyres inflated at under 20 pounds per square inch can operate at highway speeds for up to 90 minutes without problems.

– Tyres must be tested at 87, 93 and 99 miles per hour for 30 minutes at a time, an increase from the current test of 75, 80 and 85 mph. To be compliant, a tyre must show no visual evidence of tread separating or cracking after the test.

– Under tougher durability standards, tyres will be tested at 75 mph hour for four hours, carrying 85% of its load, six hours with 90% of the maximum load and 24 hours with 100% of the maximum load.

The Detroit News said some safety advocates were disappointed that NHTSA decided not to adopt testing for the effects of aging on tyre robustness and the effects of hazardous roads on tyre performance.