Page images
PDF
EPUB

only all morning which we did- but even to put him on in the afternoon, because of his vast background.

It should be made absolutely clear that the grading system has very little to do with minimum safety standards. Confusion in tire marking is certainly an irritable and undesirable condition, but it does not involve the safety feature.

One of the reasons why it was thought advisable that some linie be spent on this matter was because, in developing a tire grading system, we will be taking a very significant step. I believe this is the first time a manufactured product has been subjected to Government grading: and that fact poses some other questions pertinent to the whole field of grading of manufactlined pruducts.

That is another reason why there may be a little more to do than consider Inerely the problem of tire safety. When we get into the question how we are going to grade, what guidelines or precedents we are going to set on the question of the Government's subjecting a manufactured product to grading, there are many considerations involved. I think that should be niade clear'.

Mr. RIBICOFF. Mr. Piesident, wil the Senator yield?

Mr. MAGNUSON. Yes.

Mr. RIBICOFF. I think that the Senator from Wisconsin--I do not wish to speak for him, but I know I feel that grading is very important, because I think the exhaustive research done by the Senator from Wisconsin-And I have read his speeches with great care-makes the point that today the average consumer and buyer has not the slightest idea what he is paying for. Tires coine with all types of fancy names.

There is absolutcly no way to know the value you are getting for your money; and while the chairman is absolutely correct, that the grading has nothing to do with minimum safety standards, yet from the consumer's standpoint, I think he should be aware of what type of tire he is getting, and whether he is paying a proper price for it. Grading is important,

Mr. MAGNUSON, Oh, it is very important.

Mr. RIBICOFF. I would hope when the Secretary has the time, that he will take this into account and come up with a serious study and a set of feasible standards, so that the consuming public may know what they are buying and what they are paying for.

Mr. MAGNUSON, Mr. Presidedal, I agree with both Senatui's, I do not own an automobile, and I do not purchase tires; but since we have gotten into the matter I have taken a look at soine tircs. I cannot tell what the descriptions incari to distinguish one from another; and I suppose the average member of the public is in the same situation.

I do think grading is important; but as I have pointed out, we are enibarking on a new field, the entire question of the Government imposing standards on manufactured products. We wish to be practicaland to be siue that we a.e taking the right steps.

I ask unanimous consent to be printed in the RECORD at this point the part of the report, on page 6, under the

heading of "Quality Brading," which sets furth what we are trying to do.

There being no objection, the excerpt was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

QUALITY GRADING The connittee knows of no consumer commodity more sharply characterized by cun. sused uudinisleading nomenclature than the tire. Though no uniformi grading system prenently exists, the great majority of the privule label narketers and domestic nutufacturers market tires on the basis of an 11;)parent grading system. Thus "preniiun."

Arst line," "second line," and "100 level," imply that in objective grading systein exists. Yet these designation today have 110 uni. torin fixed ineaning of definitive value. One mu keter's "prentum" is the interior (1 another's "third line" tire--and singlo

Ludu:cturer may market a tire under its Our borand name is a 3d level" tire while his privite label listr 1.trkets the site Uru Hs * "urot line" tire.

Tires are unlike many consumer les which are bought, rapidly consumed. and bought again. The lire conduiner his little opportunity to Bimple and test for himsell the quality of each of the multitude of brands muu kered. Fortunately, he need not buy a new bet of tire's every week.

But while the manufacture and intrketers establish some individu.

Sy tem for their own lines, tire nanulacturers insist that the unitorin quality grading of tires is "impractical."

Because the commiltec lacks the technical capacity to proclain whether a quality krading systein for tires is indeed "pracuicul," we would direct the Secretury of Commerce, under the bill, to cielern.ine the feasibility of such a krading system, and 11 sich it Nystem is indeed feasible, to determine how such system can best be implemented. A:, the Department of Cominerce develops expi'lise in tlie field of tire grading the curuniittee feuls that it should work closely with butto the Federal Trade Commission and incluiry in eiforis lo eliminate current deception and confusion in tire nomenclature and mark 1. ing pruuli, es

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question i., un agreeing to the amendment, as modified, of the Senator froni Wisconsin to the curimittee amencent.

The amendiment was agreed to.

Mr. NELSON, Mr. President, the Scnate is considering toclay a historic piece of legislation which will, for the Arst time.cstablish mranin::ful standards for automobile tires which will help to safeguard the American public and reduce the terrible toll or death on our highWays.

On this occasion, it is appropriate to roli w the background of this Irgislation. We should revicw the grave public safety problcin which brought it about, and what this legislation will do to mert this problem.

THE TIRE SCANDAL I think that history will record 1965 and 1966 as the years when the American public discovered a scandal in automobilr tires

Last year, we killed 49.000 peoplr on our highways. We inflicted disabling injurics on 1.800.000 propironough to fill almost curry hospital bed in Amcrica--and we inflicted nondisabling injurics on another 1.800.000. The dollar cost of automobile accidents last year has been estimated at $8 billion.

These facts have been cited by others on many occasions-o often in fact that

6916

the American publir sometimes seems Immunc to them. To put them in perspective, let me point out by comparison that we killed 25% people on scheduled airlines during 1965. And the total of American deaths in the war in Vietnam presently stands at about 2.000. It seems probablr that cver the next 5 years we will kill on the highways of this country As many people as wir lost to cnemy action in all 4 years in World War II Jn the next decad, we con rxpect to kill more than 500.000 people and injur about 40 million.

Among young people from 1 to 21 years of age, motor vehicle accidents are now the No. 1 cause of death. More than one-third of our highwav fatalitics arn youngsters in this age group.

These dcath and injury figures are so staggering that we must move against them with every wcapon at our disposal. The causes of automobile deaths are complex. We must take action at curry level of government if we ar roing to make any meaningful cffort to reduce them.

In the past 2 years, it has become crystal clear that automobile tire failure is responsible for a significant number of these highway deaths. No one can say exactly how many deaths are caused by tirc failure, and no serious student of our highway safety problem would cver imply that tirc legislation along will solic the entire problem.

Nevertheless, since I first raised this issue. I have been swamped with letters from motorists all over the country telling the most appalling stories of automobile tirc failures which led to accldents, injuries, and deaths.

Here in the Senate today, we will act on a significant piece of legislation which should bc just onc part of an aroused Nation's effort to meet the scandal of highway slau;;hter.

TUIE LEGISLATIVE. BACKGROUND I Introduced the first tire safety legislation in May of 1964, in response to an alarm sounded by some of my own constituents who had had disastrous experiences involvire tire failure. This was a modcst proposal to have the Government draw up tire safety standards but involvins no enforcement or compliance requirements whatever.

That proposal and thic cllorts of many others helped to touch off a nationwide discussion of the fire safety problem.

One of the most sirnificant developments which followed was a series of hearincs conducted by the Federal Trade Cominission in January of 1965. Here for the first time, the shocking facts on automobile tires were told to the American people by the top omcials of the American tire industry. They admitted undirr questioning:

First. That many new automobiles are being sold with tires which are not desirned to carry the normal lond for which the automobile was desirncd.

Second. That size labris on tircs-the only basis a motorist has for determining lond capacity-'ere never meant to Indicate the precise size. An 8.00 by 14 tire, which official tables indicate should carry an 1.180-pound load, may actually be smaller than a 7.50 by 14 tire, which is Suposed to carry only 1.090 pounds.

Third. That quality labels on tircs, such as deluxe, premium, and first-line, have no meaning whatcvcr and "there is no way to tell one tire grade from another."

Fourth. That the ply or ply-rating labels on tires which are crucin! In deIrrmining strength-have "no understandable meaning any more," in the virit of one tirr Industry spokesman.

The FTC Commissioners were AS shorked as I at these revelations. The FTC Chairman, Paul Rand Dixon, after hearing this testimony, commented that "anyone in his right mind" buying a new car would ask the dealer to install larger and safer tires than are normally supplied.

THE ATTOMAKERS REPLY It seemed unbelievable to me, despite this impressive testimony, that the automobile industry would countenance a scandal as grave as this. For that reason, I wrote to the presidents of the four major automobile manufacturing Nims to ask them directly whether the tires supplied with their new cars were adequate to carry the loads for which the cars were designed.

To my astonishment, not a single automobile manufacturer rcplied with an unqualificd "Yes."

American Motors replied that its cars could safely carry a full load, provided the tires were specially inflated. If this was donc, American Motors said Its cars were "adequate for occasional full-load service."

General Motors stated that the design guide in selecting tircs was three passengers, but that its secans could safely carry six passengers plus 200 pounds of luggage, provided the tires were specially inflated.

Chrysler said simply that its tires were adequate "provided thcy are properly maintained." But it uses similar tires and its cars have similar weights so apparently the same principles apply.

The Ford Motor Co. sald that it has been customary to make tire selections on the basis of a three-passenger load. But Ford said its sedans could carry six passengers plus luggage if the tires were specially inflated.

The complicated rules for tire infation, the automobile manufacturers said, could be found somewhere in the manual supplied with each new car. They expect that each motorist will know the weight of his car, Its occupants, and also its accessories, equipment and luggage to within a few hundred pounds, and that he will carefully Inflate his tires so that they will be able to carry full normal loads.

I ask you to remember this injunction to the motorist-this responsibility for determining a tire's maximum tire-carrying capacity in the light of expert testimony which I will cic later.

The May 1965 issue of Consumer Bul. letin magazine, on the basis of apparently reliable statistics, stated that:

The full-size Ford, Chevrolet, and Plymouth "hare overloaded tires, and wo suggest that the consumer order his car with tires of the next larger size."

PERSONAL CASE NISTORIES These disclosures of brandnew cars with overloaded tires seemed to explain

the strange Instances of tire fallure on
new cars which have been pouring into
my omce since I Arst mentioned this
subject.

For instance, Paul Worland of Chey.
enne, Wyo., bought a new model of one
of our most popular medium-priced cars.

At 800 miles, I had my first blowout-
He wrote me

At 1.500 miles. I had my second, and when
the car was 3 months Bud 21 days old, I had
another blowout-Just as I WAS prasing an.
other car. My wife was painfully injured I
totally wrecked my new car and damaged the
other to the extent of several hundred dollars.

Clifton Hill of Northville. Mich., told of buying a new model of one of our highpriced cars in November 1963.

When there was 8.000 mlles on the car

He wrote me
one lire blew out and caused me to cross over
a median of a super highway in Cannda and
Almost have a fatal accident. At 7.200 miles
Another tire blew out at Gaylord, Mich., CRUR-
ing me to go into a ditch.

Mrs. Richard Williams of Hermosa
Beach, Calil.. wrote me that her family
had set out from California In a brand-
new, medium-priced station wagon with
five new tires.

Before we returned, we had blown out all five tires-

Mrs. Williams wrote.

While traveling through Arizona, out in the middle of nowhere, we blew two tires at one time.

These are random samples of several hundred letters I have received.

To me, this firsthand testimony, combined with the admissions of the tire Industry officials before the FTC and the automobile manufacturers in their Ictters to me, proved the existence of an extremely grave tire safety problem.

MI stated at the time, it was obvious that thousands of American familles were buying new cars in the belief that they were adequate for the use for which they were designed, alling them up with children and luggage, and setting out across our highways, often at high speed, unaware that they were driving on overloaded tires which could fall at any time.

NEW "BOMBSHELL" TESTIMONY However, it was not until a lengthy court trial late last year in San Francisco, Calll., that we received the really conclusive testimony on the American tiro scandal.

I want to point out that although a judgment for $207,375 was entered in this case against one of our major tire manufacturers, the B. F. Goodrich Co., the case has not yet been concluded. Goodrich plans to appeal. I do not wish in any way to prejudge the specinc questions which were at Issue in this case. I make no determination as to any negllsonoo or Hability among the valous parties involved. Regardless of whether this case is wtimately decided in favor of the plaintin or the defendant, the sworn testimony provided by top ofcials of the tre and automobile industries should shock the Nation.

This testimony should prove once and for all why tires are falling on some of

our Anest new cars and causing tragic injuries and death.

This case involves a 1961 six-passenger Chevrolet station wagon which was carrying six women. It was equipped with 8.00 by 14 Goodrich Bilvertown four-ply rayon first-line tires—the model tire which was regularly supplied with such cars by General Motors and also the tire recommended for replacement purposes by Goodrich. The accident which led to this damage suit was caused when the inner sidewall of one of these tires blew out. The car veered across the highway and overturned. Two of the women wero killed and four wero inJured. The owner of the car, whose wife Ww one of those killed, sued Goodrich.

The defense produced as its expert witness the western region service manuger for the company, Harold J. Poole of Los Angeles. He was identified as a man with long experience with the company and an acknowledged authority.

This company expert made a detailed Investigation of the accident and of the tire which falled.

Ho testified that this fatal blowout was not caused by any defect in the tire nor by any specinc Instance of abuse which it sutered. He said that the tiro Salled because it was driven in an overloaded condition, "either not enough air pressure or too much load on the tire, and either one will give you exactly tho name appearance condition."

Thus tire company witness, and others who followed him onto the stand, testiNed in detall exactly why tires fall from overloading or underinflation.

SIDEWALL TLEXING BLAMID The sidewalls of an overloaded tire bulge and undergo much more flexing than in a normally loaded tire. If this condition continues for some time, the tire can be permanently damaged.

Picking up the testimony at that point, let me quote this tire Industry expert:

If the tire 18 overloaded or underingated. It can receive & blow the sidewall which will start-maybe it won't break through at that point--but it will start a weakening of the cords. The cords will weaken and they will travel around the tire, elther in this area (pointing to one section of the tire) or this area up here. When you see this (pointing to the tire) It may have started from a slight impact but it will always indicate that the tire was operuted overloaded or underinflated.

Tho fulluro of the tire call result from & Noxing in the sidewall or slioulder area, which is due to overloud or underinflation.

Tho blow might not necessarily rupture the cords, but it will weaken the cords, and the continued Nexing will cause the tire to fall. And it will show this flex breuk which to olther in the shoulder or in the sidewull.

Referring to the specific blowout which caused this accident. this tire industry expert testified:

I assume that the blow occurred when the tire was overloaded or underinflated, or occurred after the tire had bee:: overloaded or underingated, and the blow itse!! wenkened the sidewall of the tire which was probably doxing abnormally due to the overload or underingation. This probably broke through several cords and that is what started the nex break.... This was probably a very light blow that the tire probably

6917

ened the ing abnorma. This probe what stay

obably wed.. wasni navo fal

should have been able to withstand if it weron't for the overload and underindation which probably weakened the cords. Now, even u the injury ... wasn't thero, I belleve that the tire would still have fallod from the overload and underinflation condition,

NUPTURE WOULD BE EXPECTED This tire industry witness was examined and cross-examined at length. He testined repeatedly that the tires on this car apparently had not been abused, except for overloading, and that he would normally expect the tires on this car to have lasted for another 14,000 miles or so 11 they had not been overloadod.

This witness was asked: Question. You would expect a tire that is overloaded to fall by a rupture?

Answer. Yes, wr.

Once this tire industry witness had testined that he would expect an overloaded tire to rupture, the crucial question became the degree of overload necessary to cause such & rupture. Alter considerable give and take, he testified that he would expect the failure to occur in tires that were 26 to 50 percent overloaded.

In other words--

He was asked anguming tbat tho load capacity of this tiro was 1,176 pounds, you would say that if that tiro was driven carrying a weight 26 percent or more abovo its normal carrying oa pacity, that would be an abwe?

He answered-
Yos, sir.

Question. And you would expect such a tire to fall before its tread would wear out?

Answer. I would expect it probably would. Now, tho tiro might deliver full servico but there would be an expectancy that it would tall before the comploto troad was gono.

Question. In other words, by "fall," you mean thero would be a rupture of tho kind that you see here or some such thing?

Answer. Yes.

Question. Are you trying to tell us • • • that every one of your tires that would be run overloaded would be expected to rupture?

Answer. There would be an expectancy. Yes, sir.

Question. Every one would be expected to rupture before you would wear out the initial tread on 11? Answer. There would be an expectancy

The witness stated that some tires are built well enough that they make it, but thero is always an expectancy of failure.

CAR WEIGIIT REVEALED Having testified that he would expect a tire to rupture il driven more than 25 percent overloaded, the witness was handed engineering specifications supplied by the inanufacturer of the inake of car involved in this lawsuit. He was shown that a nine-passenger station wagon of this make of car had a welght of 3,430 pounds on its rear wheels when loaded with six persons weighing 150 pounds.

Question. That would mean that each of the wheels would carry hull of that weight?

Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Or 1,715 pounds?
Answer. Yes, sir

Question. Now, you have testined that the maximum carrying capacity of each of your tires of this particular model 11,175 pounds. Is that correct?

Answer. That is, according to the recommended infation table, yes, bir.

Question. That would mean, would it not, that on this particular model of station wagon on which this particular tire would be suitable, according to the B. P. Goodrich Co., that each tire would be overloaded by 540 pounds?

Answer. Yes, sir,

Question. And 640 pounds, if I divide correctly. means that each tire would be 46 percent overloaded, is that correct?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Now, do you recall testifying yesterday afternoon that, in your opinion, 11 you drove one of those tires at an overload condition of 28 percent, that you would expoct the tire to rupturo bolore the trend would wear out? Answer. Yes, sir.

OTHER EXPERTS AGREE To me, this testimony came as a bombshell. Here we have the sworn testimony of a tire expert selected by the tire manufacturer, testifying that the tires which his company supplies and with which one of our leading automobile manufacturers equips one of their most popular cars, would be "expected to rupture" 11 the car were driven with a normal full load.

This sensational testimony was no isolated incident in this trial. Similar testimony was given by an independent tire expert, also called as a defense witness. This was Arthur W. Bull of Clearwater, Fla., who served for 33 years as a top tire engineer for the U.S. Rubber Co. and who was once president of the Tire and Rim Association, the industry's principal source of data on tire loads.

This independent tire expert also examined the tire involved in this fatal accident. His conclusion was that it had been "very carefully driven," but that "It was probably run at more than its rated load for some periods of time." He concluded that the tire probably had struck & chuckhole while overloaded and had then ruptured about 1,000 miles later because of a fabric scparation. He testified that when overloaded tires strike objects such as chuck holes, the rubber on the sidewall tends to become separated from the tire cords and some of the cords tend to break. This allows air to work its way through the sidewall, sometimes raising a bubble on the sidewall. He testined in vivid language:

I believe this went over some kind of obstacle to produce an extra deflection at this point which started the initial separation. It started the ply separating and when It did that, you began to get a rubbing and heat generation in this area and that progresses rapidly • • • ns that hent builds up the cords become weaker ... and this whole thing is working as a sandwich, and gets hotter nnd hotter, and finally these cords can no longer stand that stressing and thnt tempernture and they break. and the air gets out. forms A bubble on here, and only a few minutes later the bubble gets far enough to rub, and it bursts, and the tire starts losing air at a fairly fast pace.

This Independent tire expert was Asked for his estimate on just how much overloading tires could stand before they would suffer this bursting process.

For 65-mile-an-hour driving, he said: I think 30 percent overlond would begin to get you in dimcullies.

This witness was then shown enginecring specifications which indicated that the six-passenger station wagon involved in the accident had an official loaded weight of 2,815 pounds on the rear wheels or 1,407 pounds per wheel compared with a load rating for the tires of 1,175 pounds. The manufacturer's loaded weight figure assumes six passengers weighing 150 pounds each.

The plaintiff's attorney pointed out that one of the women in the car weighed 175 pounds,

Question. If the other ladies were of average size, this vehicle would be substantially overloaded, would it not?

Answer. The rear tires would be overloaded.

Question. Woi!1 you say that puting out tires that were going to be subjected to an overload of this kind would create a dangerous situation?

Answer. It would create a probability of early fallure or imsatisfactory performance.

WHAT IS THE LOAD RATING? Here again, we have the shocking testimony of the tire industry's own experts: Expert No. 1 testifying that tires on fully loaded popular cars would be "expected to rupture" and expert No. 2 testifying that "there would be a probability of carly failure."

The tire manufacturer. confronted with this testimony from its own witnesses, made the claim that the 1.175pound-load figure, which came froin the Tire & Rim Association yearbook, was not, in fact, a maximum load rating

The tire manufacturer contended that this 1.175-pound-load rating applied only if the tirc was innated to 24 pounds pressure, and that the tire could carry greater loads ir inflated to higher pressures. The plaintiff's attorney, however, read from the official Tire & Rim Association manual a statement_which sald that the carrying capacity of a tire could not be increased beyond the stated figure by increasing the air pressure. That drew this response from expert No. 3, Lawrence W. Keltner the senior engineer of the tire company and a 39-year veteran with the firm:

That is what the Tire & Rim book says ••• but that is not a fact.

A fourth witness for the defense, Robert L. Collins, of Birmingham, Mich., the chassis design engineer for General Motors, testified that the Tire & Rim Association manual was "advisory only" and that any use by a nonmemo the association is "entirely within the control and direction of the user and is wholly voluntary."

This caused the judge to comment:

They get out from legnl liability then, don't they?

The witness answered:
Yes, your honor.

After reviewing this testimony. I am more convinced than ever that we need some new labels in the tire industry. It would snem that the tires on some of our most popular cars should be labeled "expected to rupture."

And perhaps the official handbook of the tire industry. the Tire & Rim Assoclation manual, should be labeled "Not a Fact." or "Use at Your Own Risk."

OVERLOAD IS DETINED Inasmuch as thcsc tire experts have testified that they would expect over

loaded tires to rupture, it becomes important to determine just what constitues "overload." We will recall that the automakers expect each individual motorist to do this to know exactly what load his tires will carry, for if they fail, it is he or his family who may be killed or injured.

Yct how is he to determine maximum safe tire loads when the top experts in the automobile and tire Industries say that they are unable to do so?

In the San Francisco trial, expert No. 3, the senior engineer for the tire manufacturer, testified:

Overlond is defined as "... any load that is imposed on the tire that is greater than the recommended lond for the given in nation pressure AA set forth in the Tire And Rim Association recommended load tables."

So this expert tire engineer tells us that overload is anything over the Tire and Rim Association recommended load tables.

Yet the Ford Motor Co. stated in a letter to me:

The Tire and Rim Association ycarbook lond in nation tables have never Indicnted maxlinuin capacity.

This position has becn reiterated again and again before the FTC, before the Senate Commerce Committee, in letters to me from the automakers, and in the San Francisco trial. When pushed to the wall, all segments of the Industry repudiate the only source of tire load figurcs which have been available to the public.

HOW TIRES ARE SELECTED In addition to its sensational disclosures as to why tires fail even on new cars, the San Francisco trial provided å wealth of information as to how tires are selected by the automobile manufacturers.

One might think that the procedure would be something like this:

The automobile manufacturer would design & vehicle to meet certain use requirements. It would then submit full engineering facts on that vehicle to tire manufacturers who would supply the tire best suited to meet the power, speed, and load requirements of the vehicle.

Actually the procedure which is followed is nothing like that. The testimony indicates that no serious consideration is given to engineering data or weight and load figures either by the automobile manufacturer or by the form which supplies the tires.

As expert No. 3-Mr. Keltner-testiAcd in the San Francisco trial:

We nii the orders for the tires that aro ordered. As far as what vehicle they are put on, that is entirely the determination of the Automobile manufacturer.

He testified that the tires for the make and model of car Involved in this accident were supplied to Chevrolet by Goodrich without any knowledge as to the weight of the car on which they were to be installed.

Expcrt No. 2, the former president of the Tire and Rim Association and a 33-year veteran from U.8. Rubber, told of the dimculties the tire makers face in getting the automobile makers to use proper tires. He testined:

« PreviousContinue »