More than 40% of passenger car tyres and more than 50% of light truck tyres would not withstand proposed new federal tyre testing standards, according to the US Rubber Manufacturers Association.

The group, which represents tyre manufacturers, called the proposal “unwarranted and extreme” given the high level of safety and performance of today’s tyres.

“Today’s tyres are safe,” said RMA president and CEO Donald B. Shea. “Tyres last longer than ever before and often perform safely even when driven for periods of time while underinflated and overloaded. However, no tyre can withstand an unlimited amount of abuse and be expected to perform.”

An analysis by RMA found that as many as 42% of passenger car tyres and more than 50% of light truck tyres may not meet NHTSA’s proposed new standard – far greater than the 30% that NHTSA believes would not meet the proposed standard. RMA noted that NHTSA’s own data shows that the age of tyres cited in accident statistics compared to the population of tyres is 0.0013%.

“NHTSA has absolutely failed to demonstrate that a significant population of today’s tyres is not performing in a safe and reliable manner,” Shea said. “In fact, NHTSA’s own data shows an extremely low number of tyre-related problems.”

In its comments, RMA said that NHTSA’s proposal fails to abide by a number of important government guidelines for major regulations.

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“NHTSA’s proposal fails government guidelines to show that safety will be improved,” said RMA senior vice president of government relations Ann Wilson. “This is clearly a contradiction of a mandate not only of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 (“Safety Act) but also the TREAD Act.”

The regulation for revising federal tyre testing standards was included in the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act, which Congress passed in November 2000.

In January 1999, RMA petitioned NHTSA to revise the 34-year-old federal tyre testing standards – nearly two years before passage of the TREAD Act. Tyre makers sought revised testing standards to reflect current “real world” conditions faced by tyres as well as to bring US test standards in line with other nations.

RMA also stated that NHTSA’s proposals violate government guidelines for “practicability” and “objectivity.”

Under these standards, NHTSA cannot require manufacturers to “perform the impossible or impose standards so imperative as to put a manufacturer out of business.” Furthermore, the agency’s testing standards must be “capable of producing identical results when test conditions are exactly duplicated.”

“RMA’s comments provide a reasonable, science-based approach to tyre testing standards,” Shea said. “Our proposed test standards are designed to subject tyres to rational, real-world conditions.”

RMA’s testing comments make moderate changes to the NHTSA proposal to create testing standards that are pro-safety, revise the current 34-year-old standards and reflect sound tyre engineering. Under the RMA proposal a significant number of tyres will need to be modified.

“Tyre performance relative to temperature resistance, endurance, strength, bead unseating, traction, tread wear, and rolling resistance remains a complex balance involving aspects of both physics and chemistry,” RMA wrote in a cover letter to its comments. “It is not possible to engineer a tyre that possesses, at once, the highest performance in all categories, while at the same time operating, for extended periods at or beyond maximum design loads, at high speeds, and under-inflation.

“NHTSA’s failure to recognise this important principle has led the agency to propose testing standards that do not have a sound scientific foundation and also fail to meet legal standards required of government agencies in rulemakings of this nature.”