November 19, 2015, Trial News
NTSB report highlights deficiencies in tire recall process
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released an initial report highlighting deficiencies in the tire recall process and recommending actions the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and tire manufacturers can take to increase safety. An NTSB investigation revealed that the current system of implementing tire recalls is insufficient and that the rate of recalled tires that are ultimately repaired or replaced is well below that of recalled vehicles.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released an initial report highlighting deficiencies in the tire recall process and recommending actions the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and tire manufacturers can take to increase safety. An NTSB investigation revealed that the current system of implementing tire recalls is insufficient and that the rate of recalled tires that are ultimately repaired or replaced is well below that of recalled vehicles (about 20 percent for tires versus more than three-quarters of vehicles recalled for non-tire-related defects). The NTSB says the tire registration process is a major factor in the low numbers of recalled tires being replaced—most tires are not registered with the manufacturer after purchase, preventing manufacturers from contacting owners when a recall occurs.
The NTSB estimates there are 33,000 tire-related vehicle crashes causing 19,000 injuries annually in the United States. The report stemmed from investigations into four crashes in 2014 that injured 42 people and killed 12, all the result of tire tread separations. After conducting research and meeting with experts, the NTSB concluded that the existing tire registration process and recall procedures failed to adequately protect consumers. Tire manufacturers do not have full, accurate consumer information from tire registrations to contact people who have purchased recalled tires; recall information available on the NHTSA website is confusing and difficult to locate; tire manufacturers do not post recall information on websites in a way that is easily accessible; and the agency and tire manufacturers do not provide enough guidance to consumers about tire safety and replacing aging or worn tires.
The NTSB’s recommendations include requiring all tires to be registered with the manufacturer at the time of sale. Currently, only sellers controlled by the tire manufacturer must register tires when they are purchased; independent sellers are not required to do so. The Rubber Manufacturers Association estimates that only about 10 percent of tires sold through independent sellers are registered. To improve consumers’ access to information about tire recalls, the report suggests changes to the registration process, such as using a computerized system that would collect full customer contact and vehicle information at the time of sale, as well as additional features on NHTSA’s and manufacturers’ websites to help consumers search for tire recall information. Tire recalls are currently searchable only by brand and model; the report says they should also be searchable by the tire’s identification number.
The board noted that more consumer education is needed about the lifespan of tires and the dangers of aging tires. Existing efforts by NHTSA and the automotive industry to provide this guidance have resulted in minimal change in consumer behavior. An NTSB safety alert encourages consumers to regularly check tire pressure; examine tires for wear, punctures, and cracks; always keep a spare in their vehicles; and rotate, balance, and align tires. The recommendations also called for the automotive industry to work on developing an in-depth plan for addressing consumers’ lack of knowledge about tire safety—such as how climate, road conditions, and number of miles driven can lead to a tire’s deterioration—and the risks of driving with aging tires.
In a press release about the report, NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart stated that the recommendations “hold the promise of saving some of the more than 500 lives lost to tire-related crashes each year” by increasing the rates of repair or replacement for recalled tires.