ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Tire Makers Seek Safer Standard for Tire Pressure Monitors

New York, Aug 27, 2003

A recent survey sponsored by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) – an ANSI member and accredited standards developer – has renewed a call for a safer measure for tire pressure monitors. Survey data revealed that U.S. motorists would be less likely to check their tire pressure if their vehicle is equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that warns the driver when a tire is significantly under-inflated. According to RMA, this relaxed behavior could lead to a significant decline in tire maintenance, jeopardizing the safety of drivers and passengers alike.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) last year requiring installation of tire pressure monitoring systems in new vehicles beginning with the 2004 model year. Under that rule, tire pressure monitors must warn motorists when tire pressure falls 25 or 30 percent below the vehicle manufacturer's recommended level. RMA believes these levels are too low, and that drivers should be warned while a tire still has enough pressure to carry the vehicle at its maximum load.

"The tire industry has been working for decades to encourage motorists to check their tire pressure regularly," said Donald B. Shea, RMA president and CEO. "But our survey shows that many drivers will reduce or stop checking their tire pressure because they may incorrectly believe that their tires are properly inflated when the tire pressure warning light is off." According to Shea, a tire pressure monitoring system should not replace regular tire maintenance by consumers.

In 2002, RMA petitioned NHTSA to change the safety regulation and require tires to have a "reserve inflation pressure." NHTSA has not yet responded to the RMA petition. RMA believes a reserve pressure rule will ensure that TPMS will provide drivers with a timely warning when tires are underinflated.

RMA is not alone in its contention over the FMVSS. A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) crash investigation of 15-passenger vans last month concluded that NHTSA's tire pressure monitoring standard "is insufficient to warn van drivers of potentially unsafe low pressures." NTSB is recommending that NHTSA adopt "more stringent detection standards" for low tire pressure than is currently mandated.

Opposition has prompted consumer interest groups to act as well. Organizations including Public Citizen Inc., New York Public Interest Research Group, and the Center for Auto Safety had filed suit against the NHTSA, claiming that the agency had put the interests of auto manufacturers ahead of consumers with the TPMS rule. Earlier this month, a U.S. Appeals Court decision overturned the TPMS rule and ordered the agency to craft a new regulation. RMA was not involved in the lawsuit, but is renewing a call to ensure that the systems appropriately warn motorists of low tire pressure.

Regardless of whether a vehicle has a tire pressure monitoring system, RMA recommends that consumers check tire pressure every month and before long trips.

Founded in 1915, the Rubber Manufacturers Association is the national trade association of the rubber products industry. Its membership includes more than 100 member companies that manufacture tires and other rubber products.

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