At a recent annual government-industry conference, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) examined findings of the agency’s tire aging research, which continues despite no implementation of regulatory changes.
While the industry has settled on practices that urge motorists to replace tires after six years, regardless of tread, this message is not finding its way into practice and many service shops are still ignorant about the hazards of tire age, particularly in warm climates.
Based on data analysis, more than 90 fatalities and over 3,200 injuries occur annually as the result of crashes that may be caused by tire aging. Insurance data submitted to the NHTSA showed that 77 percent of the tire-related claims came from 27 percent of its policyholders in five warm-climate states – 84 percent of those tires were more than six years old. Nearly 252 cases describing crashes in which tires older than six years experienced tread/belt separations – most resulting in loss-of-control crashes, 233 fatalities and 300 injuries. At least 63 cases involve spare tires and at least 21 cases involve used tires.
The NHTSA has realized that it must take a more active role in eliminating the used and aged tire hazard or pay the price. Tire and vehicle manufacturers have already agreed that tire age is a safety matter and that far too many hazardous used tires are culled from scrap heaps and resold to unsuspecting buyers. But industry has done little to protect itself – and more importantly, their customers.