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Mr. MAGNUSON, from the Committee on Commerce, submitted the
Under authority of the order of the Senate of March 22 (legislative day, March 21),
(To accompany 8. 2669)
The Committee on Commerce, to which was referred the bill (S. 2669) to establish safety standards for motor vehicle tires sold or shipped in interstate commerce, and for other purposes, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon with an amendment and recommends that the bill as amended do pass.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY OF THE BILL The committee unanimously reported a revised bill as an amendment in the nature of a substitute, the text of which is printed in full at the close of this report.
It is the purpose of this bill, as amended, to protect the public against unreasonable risk of highway accidents occurring as the result of tire failure, through the establishment and the enforcement of minimum safe performance standards for both new and newly retreaded tires, and through the requirement of safety labeling of tires.
It is also the purpose of this bill to reduce confusion in the marketing of tires by directing the Secretary of Commerce to develop a quality grading system for tires, if feasible, and to join with the Federal Trade Commission and industry in efforts to eliminate deceptive and confusing tire nomenclature and marketing practices. In summary, the bill, as reported by the committee
1. directs the Secretary of Commerce on or before January 31, 1967, to adopt interim minimum safe performance standards for now passenger car and station wagon tires, based upon existing public and private standards;
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2. directs the Secretary on or before January 31, 1969, to establish revised minimum safe performance standards for new tires and minimum safe performance standards for newly retreaded tires, based upon a comprehensive program of tire research, testing, and development also authorized by the bill; these revised standards will include maximum permissible loads for each size of tire;
3. directs the Secretary to study and to make recommendations to Congress on or before January 31, 1969, for the implementation of a uniform quality grading system for tires, if feasible, and to join with the Federal Trade Commission and industry in efforts to eliminate deceptive and confusing tire nomenclature and marketing practices;
4. probibits the sale of regrooved tires;
5. authorizes testing, inspection, and the imposition of recordkeeping requirements in order to establish meaningful compliance with standards issued under the bill;
6. authorizes the seizure of tires manufactured or sold in violation of any standards issued under the bill, injunctive relief to restrain violations of the bill, and imposes a penalty of $1,000 for failure to permit entry or inspection under the bill and for the sale of regrooved tires;
7. directs the Secretary to require permanent safety labeling of tires, and the disclosure of additional safety-related information to the tire purchaser at time of sale;
8. prohibits any State or local authority from enforcing standards differing from those promulgated by the Secretary under this bill; and
9. authorizes appropriations of $2.9 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1967, $1.45 million for the fiscal years ending June 30, 1968 and 1969, and $1.6 million for each of the fiscal years ending June 30, 1970 through 1974.
BACKGROUND AND NEED As the vast new interstate highway system reaches out across our country, the Nation's tires are being subjected to punishment of a kind and degree virtually unknown 20 years ago. Today, for example, station wagons heavily laden with family and baggage customarily speed across hundreds of miles of highway in the heat of summer, at legal speeds up to 80 miles an hour. As car owners, we expect our tires to perform such service safely, though it may be demanded only once or twice a year. We expect such performance from our tires not only when they are new but throughout their tread life. And when we subject millions of worn tire carcasses to retreading, we expect the retreaded tires to perform safely throughout yet another tour of service.
At the very time that tires are being subjected to greater and greater stress the so-called cheapie tire—the low-price replacement tire usually sold under the marketer's own unfamiliar brand name has captured a substantial share of the replacement tire market.
The committee received disturbing testimony that significant numbers of these tires were of poor quality often evidencing, upon close inspection, fatal defects and incapable of performing safely under normal conditions of use.
And, with respect to original equipment tires, on new passenger cars and station wagons, the committee received a surprising volume of complaints citing premature, unexplained, often multiple, tire failures at low mileages.
Our hearing record contains the following statement by the chairman of a tire manufacturing company:
For years, the tire industry has tried to establish maximum tire carrying-capacity weights through the Tire & Rim Association, Inc. These efforts have been largely ignored by Detroit's engineers, who insist upon equipping their new cars with tires which are designed to carry the empty weight of
the vehicle, plus "2/4" passengers. Additionally, more than 20 percent of the 300 million passenger tires presently in use are retreaded tires produced in thousands of shops throughout the country. The safety of such tires is subject not only to the strength of a tire carcass—which has already outworn one tread—but to the quality of materials, processing methods, and the maintenance of quality control techniques as well. Yet retreaded tires must be capable of bearing up under the same conditions of use as new tires. There is little doubt that far too many retreaded tires fall far short of this mark.
Thus, today, there is a growing awareness among the public that no car can be safer than its tires, and a deepening uncertainty as to the adequacy both of tires supplied with new cars and of tires purchased in the “after market.”
By January 1, 1965, the Rubber Manufacturers Association, in response to this growing concern, had promulgated voluntary minimum safe performance standards for tires. Subsequently, the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission, established pursuant to the Interstate Vehicle Equipment Safety Compact authorized by Congress, issued a similar set of standards.
Unquestionably, each of these standards represented a significant and praiseworthy step toward the meaningful protection of the public from unreasonable tire failure. Nevertheless, hearings in January of last year before the Federal Trade Commission, and 3 days of hearings before our committee last summer, convinced the members of this committee that the public remains inadequately protected against the risks of unsafe tires.
Following these hearings, both the Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission issued revised standards.
In response to a request by Chairman Magnuson, the Bureau of Standards, on January 28, 1966, submitted to the committee an evaluation of the revised standards, expressing the unequivocal judgment that these standards, though more stringent, remain inadequate.
Also, by letter of January 28, 1966, the Federal Trade Commission informed the committee that,
its investigations had "raised grave doubts whether the per-
light of current highspeed turnpike and other highway use.” Beyond these flaws in the standards themselves are fatal defects in their enforcement machinery. The tire which fails to meet Rubber Manufacturers Association standards subjects the manufacturer only to the withdrawal of his name from the association's certified tire directory and, of course, the right to advertise that its tires meet RMA standards. Moreover, the Association has not established a testing program of "sufficient magnitude to afford confidence that nonconforming tires will be ferreted out.
Enforcement of the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission standards will vary as the States which adopt the standards decide. At this moment, only a handful of States have adopted the standards. And individual State enforcement, even if possible, would necessarily be costly, cumbersome, and redundant. There are now 14 domestic tire manufacturers, almost all of whom market tires nationally or at least regionally.
MINIMUM SAFE PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR TIRES The committee concluded that a national public agency independent of the automobile and tire industries and possessed of the necessary scientific and technical capacity must be given the direction, authority, and the resources to provide that measure of assurance in the development and enforcement of safe tire performance to which the public is entitled.
The committee also concluded that the National Bureau of Standards, under the direction of the Secretary of Commerce, possesses the requisito capacity to develop tire standards. Indeed, even the Rubber Manufacturers Association standards were based in part upon the tiro-testing development program conducted by the Bureau of Standards before 1953.
So that the public might have the protection of at least interim standards while the Bureau of Standards is tooling up for a comprehensive tire standards development program, the committee concluded that the Secretary should be directed to evaluate existing public and private standards and to select from among them those provisions which he determines offer the greatest assurance of protoction for the motoring public. There now exist three minimum safe performance standards for tires: (1) the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission V-1, (2) the Society of Automotive Engineers standard J-918A, and (3) the Rubber Manufacturers Association standard RMA-1.
Pursuant to Public Law 88–515, the General Services Administration has issued a Federal safety standard for "original equipment” tires for all automobiles purchased by the Federal Government. This standard is identical to the GSA purchase specification ZZ-T381, which is now under revision. Although interim minimum safe performance standards to be adopted by the Secretary under this bill are to apply to tires below "original equipment" quality—if the Secretary finds that the marketing of such tires is consistent with the purposes of this bill—the Secretary should at least consider the General Services Administration safety standard in formulating the interim standards under this bill.
It was also the committee's judgment that the program of standards development authorized by the bill will have matured sufficiently by January 31, 1969, to enable the Secretary to provide revised minimum safe performance standards for new tires and to establish standards for newly retreaded tires. The committee also believes the Secretary will then be in a position to establish sound maximum permissible load
standards to eliminate the risk of hazardous overloading of tires on new cars.
With respect to standards for retreaded tires, the committee concluded, based on information supplied by the Bureau of Standards, that it would not be technically feasible to develop either minimum safe performance standards for retreaded tires or, alternatively, minimum safe procedures for retreading tires before January 31, 1969.
The committee also considered that standards for retreaded tires should only be applied when tire casings produced under the interim Federal minimum safe performance standards for new tires are generally available for retreading. Nevertheless, the committee is hopeful that as retreading research progresses the Secretary will take such steps as he can to encourage safe retreading procedures even before the effective date of retreading standards.
Finally, the committee concluded that the practice of regrooving passenger car tires, in which an iron or tread design device is used to cut into the undertread of a smooth tire carcass to produce a new tread design—a universally condemned practice should be prohibited by this bill. However, the Secretary would be given the authority to permit the regrooving of any tires which he finds are designed and constructed so as to permit safe regrooving.
The committee believes that the Secretary, in carrying out his standards-setting responsibilities under this bill, should utilize to the fullest extent practicable the knowledge and expertise existing in such organizations as the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission, the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Automobile Manufacturers Association, and the Retreading Industry Action Committee. The committee is particularly cognizant of the contributions to traffic safety of the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission and is hopeful that this Commission will continue to contribute to the development of automobile safety standards.
The centralized character of the tire-manufacturing industry requires, in the opinion of the committee, that standards not only be meaningful and adequately enforced but that they be uniform throughout the United States. At the same time, the committee considers it important that States be left free to enforce tire standards which are equivalent in all respects to the Federal standards. Such supplementary State enforcement can be particularly appropriate in the case of standards for newly retreaded tires. Unlike the tire manufacturers, there are thousands of tire retreaders spread throughout the United States, many of which are truly local enterprises.
The committee, of course, is well aware that the setting of minimum standards for new and newly retreaded tires can only be the beginning of a coherent tire safety program. Adequate maintenance of tires in safe operating condition by the individual motorist is equally important, as is the need for encouraging vigorous tire inspection programs at the State level. Again, a comprehensive, uniform accident reporting and recording system is of great importance in determining the effectiveness of tire standards. The committee intends to consider each of these needs in the light of the overall Federal traffic safety program which is now before the committee as it considers S. 3005, the President's proposed Traffic Safety Act of 1966.