The recently enacted Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act provides incremental improvements in the way U.S. motorists are notified about vehicle and tire safety defects, but the legislation stops far short of the kind of fixes necessary to adequately inform consumers of the dangers they face on the road.
Thanks to tire industry lobby, the system for informing the public about defective tire tread recalls remains deeply flawed, and provisions in the FAST Act fail to provide motorists with the kind of useful information they need to know about defective and dangerous tires.
On the plus side, the FAST Act increases civil penalties that manufacturers can face from $35 million to $105 million, but safety activists agree that lawmakers missed an opportunity to improve the recall process for defective and dangerous tires. Signed by President Obama in December 2015, the legislation now requires the NHTSA to create a web-accessible tire recall database that allows users to search for recall information based on Tire Identification Number (TIN). That’s certainly an improvement, but the legislation could have gone much further to equip motorists with this critically important information. For example, the bill only asks the NHTSA to study the possibility of using new technology such as electronic identification in place of the current requirement of manually finding and writing down a TIN.
The result is that it’s difficult and cumbersome to for motorists to obtain useful information about whether or not their tires are the subject of safety recalls. Another example of the FAST Act’s shortcomings: Tire manufacturers again avoided direct responsibility for maintaining registries of tire owners. Writes SafetyResearch.net:
The FAST Act turns back the clock on tire registration. More than 30 years ago, tire dealers persuaded Congress to remove them from the tire recall system. Since 1983, dealers have only had to hand their customers a registration card to be filled out and returned to the manufacturer. The passage of the FAST passed that responsibility back to independent tire dealers, much to the chagrin of The Tire Industry Association. The required rulemaking will compel independent dealers to maintain customer tire purchase information and electronically transmit those records to tire manufacturers.
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