Final rule on the way

May 1, 2008
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expects to publish a final rule on tire registration by the end of this year, according to

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expects to publish a final rule on tire registration by the end of this year, according to George Soodoo, chief of NHTSA's Vehicle Dynamic Division.

With the comment period having closed on March 24, NHTSA has been reviewing and analyzing comments received to its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Docket No. NHTSA-2008-0014.

The NPRM was published January 24, with a 60-day comment period. Part 574 amendments were proposed to: allow independent dealers to electronically register tires voluntarily for their customers in lieu of providing a paper form to the consumer; allow an independent dealer to voluntarily register tires for customers using a paper form; add a tire manufacturer's Web site to a paper registration form for customer use; and to clarify that manufacturer-owned stores may continue to register tire by electronic means.

Soodoo said the proposal does not impose new obligations on tire dealers or tire manufacturers. It accommodates and facilitates Internet and other electronic registration of tires by consumers and voluntary registration of tires by independent dealers. The NPRM solicited comments on other possible options for tire registration.

Soodoo said NHTSA in 1970 established initial tire-registration requirements for all new tires sold in the US. The requirements were contained in Part 574 of the CFR, with the purpose to facilitate notifying owners in the event of a recall. The regulation impacted company-owned tire dealers, independent tire dealers, consumers, tire manufacturers, and vehicle manufacturers.

He said all tire dealers were required to record the name and address of first purchasers of tires. The tire dealer was required to send information to the tire manufacturer. Tire manufacturers and vehicle (including trailer) manufacturers were required to keep records of first purchasers for three years.

Soodoo said changes were mandated by Congress in 1983.

NHTSA was required to develop a standard registration form, manufacturer-owned tire dealers were required to collect information and transmit it to the manufacturer, independent tire dealers were required to fill in TIN and give it to the purchaser (but were no longer required to send the form to the tire manufacturer), and the purchaser was responsible for sending the form to the tire manufacturer.

“As part of the TREAD Act, registration record retention for tire manufacturers and vehicle manufacturers was extended from three years to five years,” Soodoo said. “How effective has it been? NHTSA evaluated tire registration effectiveness and found that the registration rate for tires sold by independent dealers was no more than 10%. Manufacturers reported that many returned forms were inaccurate, incomplete, or illegible. Manufacturer-owned tire dealers have a registration rate of 86%.”

Soodoo also addressed two other topics:

  • Vehicle Identification Numbers.

    He said Part 565 requires each vehicle to have a unique VIN to increase accuracy and efficiency of recall campaigns.

    VIN has become a key identifier for registrations, insurance programs, crash investigations, and safety research. A 17-character system requires a unique VIN for each vehicle manufactured in a 30-year period, which expires in 2010.

    NHTSA petitioned to modify the requirements of Part 565 for another 30-year period. An NPRM (Docket NHTSA-2007-27830) was published in October 2007 to address the diminishing availability of VINs. The comment period ended November 16, 2007, with the agency receiving 46 comments.

    The key provisions include: moving

    vehicle “make” from the manufacturer identifier to the second section; increasing the number of characters available for positions 4-8 of the VIN; allowing either alphabetic or numeric characters in positions 12-14 as part of the manufacturer identifier; and adding definitions for “high-volume manufacturer” and “low-volume manufacturer.”

    NATM's comments included: “make” is meaningless in the trailer industry; requiring a “make” in the section could adversely affect trailer manufacturers; clarification of the 7th position character is needed; and the proposed effective date is too inflexible.

    Soodoo said all comments have been reviewed and analyzed, and the agency is in the process of developing a final rule based on proposals in the NPRM and comments received. It will be published later this year.

  • Cargo-carrying capacity.

    The original petition was submitted in 2000 to provide consumers with information to help reduce overloading of travel trailers, RVs, and motor homes. The NPRM was issued in 2005, proposing to amend FMVSS 120 to ensure tires selected were rated to support the maximum load of occupants and cargo. There were numerous commenters, including NATM.

“The agency appreciates the comments it received from NATM,” he said. “It allowed us to make a more effective final rule.”

Among NATM's comments: Cargo trailers are not RV travel trailers; tongue load “ratings” are not available in the trailer industry; ½ percent tolerance is inadequate; the tire placard cargo-capacity listing misleads consumers; conservative listing of cargo-capacity weights was overlooked; dealer label information is incomplete and inadequate.

The final rule was published in December 2007 (Docket No. NHTSA-2007-0040), with an effective date of June 2, 2008, and requires manufacturers of travel trailers, RVs, and motor homes to attach a label to the vehicle on its load-carrying capacity; defines recreation vehicle trailer to exclude cargo trailers; requires the label to be affixed to a specified location in the interior of the vehicle; adopts a threshold for correcting load-carrying capacity information of the lesser of 1.5% of GVWR or 100 lb.

Early Warning Reporting

Property-damage claims and death and injury data would be made public if a court finds that the TREAD Act does not prohibit NHTSA from releasing Early Warning Reporting (EWR) data, said Christina Morgan, chief of the EWR Division.

Under EWR, manufacturers that produce 500 or more vehicles annually provide aggregate data (production, number of warranty claims, consumer complaints, property-damage claims, field reports, death, and injury incidents) and copies of non-dealer field reports.

Manufacturers that produce fewer than 500 vehicles annually or motor vehicle equipment provide death incidents and associated injuries.

She said 261 trailer manufacturers submitted EWR data in the third quarter of 2007, reporting on 148,920 different trailers with a production volume of 14,136,845. There were 51,115 warranty claims, 5052 consumer complaints, 1056 field reports, 177 property-damage claims, five injury incidents, one death incident, and 20 non-dealer field reports.

In the past 18 quarters, trailer manufacturers have reported 1.8 million warranty claims, 106,000 consumer complaints, 27,000 field reports, 1551 property-damage claims, 78 injury incidents, 22 death incidents, and 303 non-dealer field reports.

“We use this data to identify potential safety defects,” she said.

In 2006, after having received EWR reports from manufacturers for two years, NTSA initiated its promised review of the EWR rule.

She said NHTSA assessed EWR data and the impact of possible changes in the threshold, completing the evaluation late in 2007.

“We're considering potential changes to the rule,” she said. “Right now, I'm not at liberty to say what they are.”

FMCSA rules

Larry W Minor, associate administrator for policy and program development for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), discussed rules applicable to the operation of small and medium trailers:

  • 49 CFR Part 390.

    It addresses vehicles designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver); designed or used to transport between nine and 15 passengers, for compensation, traveling more than 75 miles; with GVWR, GCWR, GVW, GCW of 10,001 lb or more; and vehicles transporting hazardous material if placards must be displayed.

  • 49 CFR Parts 383 & 382.

    This is for determining whether the operator needs a commercial driver license and deals with vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 lb or more; with a GCWR of 26,001 lb or more, inclusive of a towed unit with a GVWR of more than 10,000 lb; vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers; and vehicles transporting hazardous material in a quantity that requires placards.

    “The good news is that there is an exception for personal transportation,” Minor said. “Generally, individuals who use commercial vehicles for the transportation of personal property are not subject to the safety requirements. [49 CFR 390.3(f)] The exception covers recreational activities and hobbies, including certain activities for which prizes may be awarded.”

  • 49 CFR Part 393.

    It includes cross-references to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and says that motor carriers must maintain the equipment that NHTSA requires manufacturers to install.

    It requires lamps and reflectors, including red-and-white retroreflective sheeting on truck-tractors built on or after July 1997, and trailers built on or after December 1, 1993. There is a retrofitting requirement for conspicuity treatments on trailers built before December 1993.

    It requires service brakes on all wheels. There is an exception for lightweight trailers (under 3000 lb), providing that towing vehicle has brakes and is able to stop the combination safely.

    “We addressed the issue of surge brakes - between 10,000 and 26,000 lb,” he said. “ Thanks to all the feedback and help from your organization, we got around to changing the regulations. So surge brakes are legal under certain very detailed situations covered in our regulations in response to a petition from your organization. You helped us to change regulations that were long overdue for cleaning up. That's a good example of an agency working with the industry to make things better for everyone.”

    He said Part 393 also deals with rear-impact guards and rear-impact protection: trailers built after January 1998 must comply with FMVSS Nos. 223 and 224; vehicles built after December 1952 (except trailers built after January 1998) comply with pre-FMVSS 223/224 rules.

  • 49 CFR Part 396.

    It requires motor carriers to ensure that vehicles are in safe and proper operating condition at all times. Motor carriers must have a systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance program. Carriers must maintain documentation of the program. Vehicles must undergo annual inspection by a qualified inspector.

Drivers must prepare driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIR) at the end of each workday, for each vehicle he/she operated. Drivers must report defects and deficiencies discovered on the DVIR. Motor carriers must certify that the problem has been corrected, or that repairs were not necessary.

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.