Federal safety regulators have opened an investigation into Goodyear light-truck tires linked to at least 15 traffic deaths in the United States, three months after reports of tread separations on Firestone tires led to a nationwide recall.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received 37 complaints about tread separations on Goodyear's Load Range E tires, including reports of 31 crashes involving 15 deaths and 129 injuries.
All 37 accidents have involved light trucks, passenger vans, and small buses, according to NHTSA. The investigation will examine 21 million tires manufactured between 1991 and 1999.
Goodyear spokesman Chris Aked said the Load Range E tires have been used as original equipment on large trucks made by Ford Motor Co and DaimlerChrysler AG, including the Dodge Ram 4250 and Ford F-Series 350 series trucks, many of which have been modified for commercial purposes. Goodyear was notified that the agency has opened a preliminary investigation, and company officials have yet to release a statement. However, Aked said the tire maker had investigated 30 accidents involving tires and attributed them to problems such as overloading and underinflation, not a defect.
Aked said Goodyear began putting an extra layer of nylon in the tires in 1996 after discovering that some of the tires were prone to failure at high speeds and at high temperatures. But according to Aked, Goodyear said the overall failure rate for the tires was very low and did not issue a recall.