In March 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule establishing test procedures to be used by tire manufacturers when rating the fuel economy, safety and durability characteristics of replacement tires. The NHTSA has modified the rule in response to several petitions for reconsideration. Of interest to limited-production specialty tire manufacturers, the NHTSA has clarified that there is an ongoing reporting requirement when claiming an exemption for a new tire model or removing an existing tire from the exemption list. The manufacturer must send a declaration statement to the NHTSA within 30 days of it being offered for sale.
The Tire Fuel Efficiency Information Program itself has not yet gone into effect. The agency is still debating how to convey the information to consumers at the point of sale and online. The premise for the new program is to allow consumers to compare ratings for different replacement tires and determine the effect of tire choices on fuel economy or the potential tradeoffs between tire fuel efficiency (rolling resistance), safety (wet traction) and durability (treadwear life). The consumer information may be conveyed in the form of a 1–5 star rating system or some similar approach, and included on a label affixed to each tire. The exact label design has not been set.
The program is required under a 2007 law, which contains a SEMA provision exempting tires that have been produced or imported in annual units of less than 15,000, and do not exceed 35,000 tires in total brand name production. The NHTSA originally asked the limited-production tire manufacturers to submit reporting data so that the agency could identify the tires for which the 15,000-35,000-unit low-volume exemption was claimed.
In comments submitted to the agency, SEMA convinced the NHTSA that such a paperwork burden was unnecessary. Instead, the NHTSA agreed to require that the limited production tire manufacturers provide a one-time list of its tire models/sizes, along with a statement that the tire models/sizes are excluded from the applicability of the regulation and, thus, are not rated. As noted, the manufacturer must update the list as circumstances change.
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