Tire manufacturers want the federal government to adopt a new safety regulation requiring motor vehicle tires to have what's called "reserve inflation pressure" to alert motorists when their tires are underinflated.
The issue has ramifications for the trucking industry, as Section 13 of the TREAD Act calls for similar tire pressure monitoring technology to be developed for tractor-trailers in the near future. Guy Walenga, engineering manager for Nashville, TN-based Bridgestone/Firestone Tires Sales, told Fleet Owner that NHTSA will begin looking at similar system for commercial trucks in 2004.
"The government realizes that commercial vehicles are very different from passenger cars and light trucks, so they are going to take more time and look at real-world performance standards before proceeding," he said. "We will have more time in the trucking industry to develop this technology and related standards."
The regulation requires tire pressure monitoring systems to warn motorists when tires are 25-30% underinflated, depending on the type of system used. Such technology is mandatory for cars and light trucks starting in 2004 and will be phased in over several years.
The Rubber Manufacturers Assn. said that, in addition to having a tire inflation system onboard, a vehicle's tires would be required to have a recommended inflation pressure that would be sufficient to carry the vehicle load even if the tire suffers as much as a 30% loss of pressure. This requirement is necessary, the group explained, because NHTSA's regulation as written would allow many vehicles' tires to reach an unsafe condition well before a motorist is warned.