II.  Background


    A. The Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation Act

    Congress enacted the TREAD Act on November 1, 2000. (4) Section 13 of the TREAD Act mandated the completion of "a rulemaking for a regulation to require a warning system in new motor vehicles to indicate to the operator when a tire is significantly under inflated" within one year of the TREAD Act's enactment. Section 13 also requires the regulation to take effect within two years of the completion of the rulemaking.


    B. Previous Rulemaking on Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems

    NHTSA first considered requiring a "low tire pressure warning" device in 1970. However, the agency determined that the only warning device available at that time was an in-vehicle indicator whose cost was too high.

    During the 1970s, several manufacturers developed inexpensive, on-tire warning devices. In addition, the price of in-vehicle warning devices dropped significantly.

    As a result, on January 26, 1981, NHTSA published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) soliciting public comment on whether the agency should propose a new Federal motor vehicle safety standard requiring each new motor vehicle to have a low tire pressure warning device which would "warn the driver when the tire pressure in any of the vehicle's tires was significantly below the recommended operating levels." (46 FR 8062.)

    NHTSA noted in the ANPRM that under-inflation increases the rolling resistance of tires and, correspondingly, decreases the fuel economy of vehicles. Research data at the time indicated that the under-inflation of a vehicle's radial tires by 10 pounds per square inch (psi) reduced the fuel economy of the vehicle by 3 percent. Because of the worldwide oil shortages in the late 1970s and early 1980s, NHTSA was interested in finding ways to increase the fuel economy of passenger vehicles (i.e., passenger cars and multipurpose passenger vehicles). Since surveys by the agency showed that about 50 percent of passenger car tires and 13 percent of truck tires were operated at pressures below the vehicle manufacturer's recommended (placard) pressure, the agency believed that low tire pressure warning devices would encourage drivers to maintain their tires at the proper inflation level, thus maximizing their vehicles' fuel economy.

    Moreover, a 1977 study by Indiana University concluded that under-inflated tires were a probable cause of 1.4 percent of all motor vehicle crashes. (5) Based on that figure, and the approximately 18.3 million motor vehicle crashes then occurring annually in the United States, the agency suggested that under-inflated tires were probably responsible for 260,000 crashes each year (1.4 percent x 18.3 million crashes).

    In the ANPRM, NHTSA sought answers from the public to several questions, including:

    1. What tire pressure level should trigger the warning device?

    2. Should the agency specify the type of warning device (i.e., on-tire or in-vehicle) to be used?

    3. What would it cost to produce and install an on-tire or in-vehicle warning device?

    4. What is the fuel saving potential of low tire pressure warning devices?

    5. What studies have been performed which would show cause and effect relationships between low tire pressure and auto crashes?

    6. What would be the costs and benefits of a program to educate the public on the benefits of maintaining proper tire pressure?

    NHTSA terminated the rulemaking on August 31, 1981, because public comments indicated that the low tire pressure warning devices available at the time either had not been proven to be accurate and reliable (on-tire devices) or were too expensive (in-vehicle devices). (46 FR 43721.) The comments indicated that in-vehicle warning devices had been proven to be accurate and reliable, but would have had a retail cost of $200 (in 1981 dollars) per vehicle. NHTSA stated, "Such a cost increase cannot be justified by the potential benefits, although those benefits might be significant." (46 FR 43721.) The comments also indicated that on-tire warning devices cost only about $5 (in 1981 dollars), but they had not been developed to the point where they were accurate and reliable enough to be required. The comments also suggested that on-tire warning devices were subject to damage by road hazards, such as ice and mud, as well as scuffing at curbs. Despite terminating the rulemaking, the agency stated that it still believed that "[m]aintaining proper tire inflation pressure results in direct savings to drivers in terms of better gas mileage and longer tire life, as well as offering increased safety." (46 FR 43721.)


    C. Summary of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

    On July 26, 2001, the agency published the NPRM proposing to establish a standard for TPMSs pursuant to section 13 of the TREAD Act. (66 FR 38982.) The agency proposed two alternative versions of the standard.

    The two alternatives differed in two important respects: in how they defined "significantly under-inflated," and in the number of significantly under-inflated tires that they would be required to be able to detect at any one time. The first alternative (four tires, 20 percent) would have defined "significantly under-inflated" as the tire pressure 20 percent or more below the placard pressure, or a minimum level of pressure specified in the standard, whichever was higher. It would have required the low tire pressure warning telltale to illuminate when any tire, or when each tire in any combination of tires, on the vehicle became significantly under-inflated.

    The second alternative (three tires, 25 percent) would have defined "significantly under-inflated" as the tire pressure 25 percent or more below the placard pressure, or a minimum level of pressure specified in the standard, whichever was higher. The minimum levels of pressure were the same in both proposed alternatives. The alternative would have required the low tire pressure warning telltale to illuminate when any tire, or when each tire in any combination of tires, up to a total of three tires, became significantly under-inflated.

    In most other respects, the two alternatives were identical. Both would have required passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a GVWR of 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) or less, manufactured on or after November 1, 2003, to be equipped with a TPMS and a low tire pressure warning telltale (yellow) to alert the driver. They would have required the telltale to illuminate within 10 minutes of driving after any tire on the vehicle became significantly under-inflated. They would have required the telltale to remain illuminated as long as any of the vehicle's tires remained significantly under-inflated, and the key locking system was in the "On" ("Run") position. They would have required that the telltale be deactivatable, manually or automatically, only when the vehicle no longer had a tire that was significantly under-inflated. They would have required the TPMS in each vehicle to be compatible with all replacement or optional tires/rims of the size recommended for that vehicle by the vehicle manufacturer, i.e., each TPMS would have been required to continue to meet the requirements of the standard when the vehicle's original tires were replaced with tires of any optional or replacement size(s) recommended for the vehicle by the vehicle manufacturer. Finally, they would have required vehicle manufacturers to provide written instructions, in the owner's manual if one is provided, explaining the purpose of the low tire pressure warning telltale, the potential consequences of significantly under-inflated tires, and what actions drivers should take when the low tire pressure warning telltale is illuminated.

    NHTSA believed that the only currently available TPMSs that would have been able to meet the requirements of the four-tire, 20 percent alternative were direct TPMSs. There were two reasons for this belief. First, currently available indirect TPMSs typically cannot detect significant under-inflation until the pressure in one of the vehicle's tires is about 30 percent below the pressure in at least some of the other tires. Second, they cannot detect when all four tires lose inflation pressure equally.

    The agency believed that both currently available direct TPMSs and improved indirect TPMSs, but not current indirect TPMSs, would have been able to meet the requirements of the three-tire, 25 percent alternative.

    In the NPRM, NHTSA anticipated that vehicle manufacturers would minimize their costs of complying with the three-tire, 25 percent alternative by installing improved indirect TPMSs in vehicles already equipped with ABSs and direct TPMSs in vehicles without ABSs. For vehicles already equipped with an ABS, the cost of modifying that system to serve the additional purpose of indirectly monitoring tire pressure would be significantly less than the cost of adding a direct TPMS. For vehicles not so equipped, adding a direct TPMS would be significantly less expensive than adding ABS to monitor tire pressure.

    For the NPRM, NHTSA had two sets of data, one from Goodyear and another from NHTSA's Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC), on the effect of under-inflated tires on a vehicle's stopping distance. The Goodyear data indicated that a vehicle's stopping distance on wet surfaces is significantly reduced when its tires are properly inflated, as compared to when its tires are significantly under-inflated. The VRTC data indicated little or no effect on a vehicle's stopping distance. For purposes of the NPRM, NHTSA used the Goodyear data to establish an upper bound of benefits and the VRTC data to establish a lower bound. The benefit estimates below are the mid-points between those upper and lower bounds.

    NHTSA estimated that the four-tire, 20 percent alternative would have prevented 10,635 injuries and 79 deaths at an average net cost of $23.08 per vehicle. (6) NHTSA estimated that the three-tire, 25 percent alternative would have prevented 6,585 injuries and 49 deaths at an average net cost of $8.63 per vehicle. (7) NHTSA estimated that the net cost per equivalent life saved would have been $1.9 million for the four-tire, 20 percent alternative and $1.1 million for the three-tire, 25 percent alternative.

    Finally, the agency requested comments on whether a compliance phase-in with carry-forward credits would be appropriate. The agency suggested a phase-in period of 35 percent of production in the first year (2003), 65 percent in the second year, and 100 percent in the third year.


    D. Summary of Public Comments on Notice

    The agency received comments from tire, vehicle, and TPMS manufacturers, consumer advocacy groups, and the general public. In general, the tire manufacturers' comments, including the comments of the international tire industry associations European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO), Japan Automobile Tyre Manufacturers Association (JATMA), and International Tire & Rubber Association (ITRA), echoed the comments of the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA). In general, the vehicle manufacturers' comments, including the comments of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM), were similar to the comments of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance).

    The tire manufacturers generally supported the four-tire, 20 percent alternative. The vehicle manufacturers generally supported requirements that would permit both direct and current indirect TPMSs to comply. TPMS manufacturers generally supported the alternative that would allow the type of system they manufacture. The consumer advocacy groups -- Consumers Union and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) supported by Public Citizen, Consumer Federation of America, and Trauma Foundation -- generally supported the four-tire, 20 percent alternative. The general public was about evenly divided between those who supported and those who opposed a Federal standard requiring TPMSs.

    The major issues discussed by the commenters are summarized below. The comments are addressed in the discussion of the final rule below

    1. Vehicles Covered

    The agency proposed to require TPMSs on passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a GVWR of 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) or less. The agency did not propose to require TPMSs on motorcycles, trailers, or low speed vehicles, or on medium (10,001 -- 26,000 pounds GVWR) vehicles, or heavy (greater than 26,000 pounds GVWR) vehicles for reasons explained in the NPRM.

    The Alliance recommended that the agency limit the applicability of the standard to these types of vehicles to those having a GVWR of 3,856 kilograms (8,500 pounds or less). The Alliance stated that the majority of vehicles above 8,500 pounds GVWR are used commercially. The Alliance argued that those vehicles are maintained on a regular basis and do not need a TPMS to assist in maintaining proper inflation pressure in the vehicles' tires.

    The Alliance also recommended that the agency explicitly exclude incomplete vehicles, i.e., vehicles that are built in more than one stage, from the standard. Normally, the first-stage vehicle manufacturer is responsible for certifying that all vehicle systems that are not directly modified by subsequent-stage manufacturers meet all Federal motor vehicle safety standards. The Alliance stated that in the case of direct TPMSs, the first-stage manufacturer will be unable to guarantee that, even if physically undisturbed, a non-defective TPMS will function as designed after vehicle modifications (such as adding metal hardware to the vehicle or lengthening its wheelbase) are made by subsequent-stage manufacturers.

    Advocates recommended that the agency expand the application of the standard to include medium (10,001 -- 26,000 pounds GVWR) and heavy (over 26,000 pounds) trucks and buses. Advocates stated that tire under-inflation is a pervasive problem with these vehicles, especially given the high percentage of these vehicles that are equipped with re-treaded tires.

    2. Phase-In Options and Long-Term Requirements

    a. Definition of "Significantly Under-Inflated"

    RMA recommended that the agency define "significantly under-inflated" as any inflation pressure that is less than the pressure required to carry the actual vehicle load on the tire per tire industry standards (or any pressure required to carry the maximum vehicle load on the tire if the actual load is unknown), or the minimum activation pressure specified in the standard, whichever is higher. RMA argued that some vehicles have a placard pressure that is barely adequate to carry the vehicle's maximum load. If the tire pressure falls 20 or 25 percent below the placard pressure, the tire pressure will be insufficient to carry the load. RMA stated that the definition of "significantly under-inflated" should not be tied to placard pressure unless the standard includes a requirement for all vehicles to have a reserve in the placard pressure above a specified minimum (e.g., 20 or 25 percent).

    RMA also recommended that the agency change the minimum activation pressures for P-metric standard load tires from 20 to 22 psi and for P-metric extra load tires from 23 to 22 psi. Finally, RMA recommended that the agency change the "Maximum Pressure" heading in Table 1 to "Maximum or Rated Pressure" because light truck tires are not subject to maximum permissible inflation pressure labeling requirements. RMA recommended that the agency change the rated pressure for Load Range E tires from 87 to 80 psi. Finally, RMA, supported by the Retread/Repair Industry Government Advisory Council (RIGAC), (8) recommended that the agency adopt, in this rulemaking proceeding, an amendment to upgrade Standard No. 109, "New Pneumatic Tires," by requiring that "a tire for a particular vehicle must have sufficient inflation and load reserve, such that an inflation pressure 20 or 25 percent less than the vehicle manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure is sufficient for the vehicle maximum load on the tire, as defined by FMVSS-110." (9)

    The ITRA recommended that the agency consider only direct TPMSs. The ITRA stated that indirect TPMSs have too many limitations, including the inability to detect when all four of a vehicle's tires are significantly under-inflated. The ITRA claimed that, although direct TPMSs are more expensive than indirect TPMSs, their cost is minor when compared to their safety, handling, tread wear, and fuel economy benefits.

    The Alliance recommended that the agency define "significantly under-inflated" as any inflation pressure 20 percent below a tire's load carrying limit, as determined by a tire industry standardizing body (such as the Tire and Rim Association) or the minimum activation pressure specified in the standard, whichever is higher. The Alliance agreed with the agency's minimum activation pressure of 20 psi for P-metric standard load tires. The Alliance cited data from tests performed by RMA indicating that the average tire was able to operate at high speeds (120 and 140 km/h) at load-inflation conditions more extreme than the worst case that the Alliance proposal would allow.

    The Alliance also stated that a 25 percent differential from placard pressure would be inadequate to allow the use of indirect TPMSs. The Alliance claimed that a minimum of 30 percent differential is necessary to ensure accuracy with an indirect TPMS and avoid excessive nuisance warnings.

    The AIAM recommended that the agency define "significantly under-inflated" as any pressure more than 30 percent below the placard pressure. Alternatively, the AIAM suggested that the agency use the load-carrying limit of the tire as defined by a tire industry standardizing body as the baseline for determining the warning threshold.

    Several manufacturers indicated that they are either developing or could develop indirect or hybrid TPMSs that perform better than current indirect TPMSs. In its comments on the NPRM, TRW Automotive Electronics (TRW), which manufactures both direct and indirect TPMSs, stated that it could, in concept, combine direct and indirect TPMS technologies to produce a hybrid TPMS that performs better than TRW's current indirect TPMS. TRW stated this could be accomplished by adding the equivalent of two direct pressure-monitoring sensors and a radio frequency receiver to an indirect TPMS. TRW suggested that this hybrid TPMS could comply detect 25 under-inflation for about 60 percent of the cost of a full direct TPMS. However, it did not indicate whether it had any plans to develop a hybrid system.

    Sumitomo Rubber Industries, which manufactures indirect TPMSs, indicated that indirect TPMSs will be able to detect a 25 percent differential in inflation pressure.

    Toyota, which uses an indirect TPMS on its Sienna van, stated that its next generation of indirect TPMSs (i.e., TPMSs not available for current production) would be able to detect a 20 percent differential in tire pressure by monitoring the resonance frequency as well as the dynamic radius changes of the tires. However, Toyota stated that this performance will be achieved only under ideal conditions, i.e., the vehicle is traveling in a relatively straight line at 30 to 60 km/h for at least 20 minutes. Thus, Toyota recommended that the agency adopt the Alliance proposal of 30 percent under-inflation. Toyota also stated that its next generation of indirect TPMSs would be able to detect significant under-inflation in all four tires. Toyota was not certain when its next generation of indirect TPMSs will be ready for implementation.

    Advocates supported the definition of "significantly under-inflated" contained in the four-tire, 20 percent alternative, i.e., any pressure 20 percent or more below the placard pressure, or the minimum activation pressure specified in the standard. Advocates also supported the agency's minimum activation pressures.

    b. Number of Tires Monitored

    Advocates, the ITRA, and RMA recommended that the agency require TPMSs to be able to detect when all four of a vehicle's tires become significantly under-inflated. RMA argued that it is very likely that all four tires will lose air pressure at a similar rate and become significantly under-inflated within a six-month period. (10) RMA stated that drivers would rely heavily on TPMSs for tire pressure maintenance, which will make this scenario even more likely.

    The Alliance and AIAM recommended that the agency require only that TPMSs be able to detect significant under-inflation in a single tire. The Alliance argued that TPMSs are not meant to replace the normal tire maintenance that would detect pressure losses due to natural leakage and permeation. Instead, TPMSs are intended to detect a relatively slow leak due to a serviceable condition, such as a nail through the tread or a leaky valve stem. Since such leaks rarely affect more than one tire simultaneously, the Alliance argued, it is sufficient to require only that TPMSs be able to detect a single significantly under-inflated tire. In further support of this position, the Alliance argued that tires do not lose pressure at the same rate.

    As noted above, TRW commented that a hybrid TPMS could be developed that would be capable of monitoring all four of a vehicle's tires. According to TRW, a hybrid system would involve installing two direct pressure sensors, one in a front wheel and one in a back wheel located diagonally from each other (e.g., the front left and back right wheels), on a vehicle already equipped with an indirect TPMS. The pressure sensors would directly monitor the pressure in those two tires, while the indirect TPMS would use the wheel speed sensors to indirectly monitor the pressure in the other two tires. This would solve the problem indirect TPMSs have in detecting when two tires on the same axle or the same side of the vehicle become significantly under-inflated because a direct pressure sensor will be in a wheel on each axle and on each side of the vehicle. It would also solve the problem indirect TPMSs have in detecting when all four tires become significantly under-inflated.

    Advocates and RMA also recommended that the agency require TPMSs to monitor a vehicle's spare tire. RMA argued that the spare tire should be monitored to ensure its functionality, if and when it is needed. Advocates stated, "Vehicle owners chronically neglect to maintain minimal air pressure in spare tires."

    The Alliance recommended that the agency require only that TPMSs monitor full-size, matching spare tires, and only when they are installed on the vehicle (i.e., not when they are stowed). The Alliance stated that temporary-use spare tires, including full-size, non-matching and compact spare tires, are not intended to be part of the normal tire rotation cycle for the vehicle. Because these temporary-use spare tires degrade the aesthetic appearance of a vehicle or have speed and distance limitations, vehicle owners normally replace them quickly. Thus, the Alliance recommended that the agency not require TPMSs to monitor temporary-use tires, whether stowed or installed on the vehicle.

    RMA supported the agency's proposed requirement that TPMSs function properly with all replacement tires and rims of the size(s) recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Advocates recommended that the agency require TPMSs to function properly with all replacement tires and rims, regardless of size.

    The Alliance recommended that the agency require only that TPMSs function properly with those tires and rims offered as original or optional equipment by the vehicle manufacturer. The Alliance stated that there are a large number of replacement brands and types of tires and rims with different dynamic rolling radii, size variations, load variations, and temperature characteristics. The Alliance argued that since vehicle manufacturers do not control tire compliance for aftermarket tires and rims, they could not guarantee that the TPMS will work, or will work with the same level of precision, in all cases.

    3. Lead Time

    The Alliance and most vehicle manufacturers recommended the following four-year phase-in schedule: 15 percent of a manufacturer's affected products equipped with a semi- or fully-compliant TPMS in the first year; 35 percent in the second year; 70 percent in the third year; and 100 percent of a manufacturer's affected products equipped with a fully compliant TPMS in the final year. According to the Alliance, a semi-compliant TPMS is one that meets all but specified interface requirements, i.e., those concerning the display of information about under-inflation, and would be allowed only during the phase-in period. The Alliance and AIAM also recommended that the agency provide credits for early introduction of TPMSs to encourage early implementation of the standard.

    TRW supported the agency's four-year phase-in period. TRW stated that direct TPMSs are ready so that manufacturers could start production to meet such a phase-in. However, TRW stated that the improvements in indirect TPMSs that will be necessary to meet the requirements of this final rule would make it difficult to meet the compliance date of November 1, 2003.

    Ford Motor Company (Ford) commented that its recent experience with direct TPMSs demonstrates that this technology still needs a thorough prove-out. Ford stated that when it tested 138 direct pressure sensors on 30 vehicles, nine sensors experienced a malfunction. This translates to a sensor failure rate of 6.5 percent. However, Ford stated that if the final rule required five sensors per vehicle (all four tires plus the spare tire), nearly 33 percent of vehicles could experience the failure of at least one sensor. Ford recommended that the agency adopt the phase-in schedule set forth by the Alliance.

    Vehicle Services Consulting, Inc. (VSC), which submitted comments on behalf of small volume vehicle manufacturers (i.e., those manufacturers who produce fewer than 5,000 vehicles worldwide each year), recommended that the agency provide phase-in discretion so that small volume manufacturers have until the end of the phase-in period before having to comply with the TPMS requirements. VSC claimed that small volume manufacturers could not obtain the TPMS technology at the same time as large volume manufacturers.

    4. Reliability

    In the NPRM, the agency noted that the components of direct TPMSs, especially when tires are taken off the rim, might be susceptible to damage. The agency requested comments on the likelihood of such damage. TRW stated:

    Direct TPMSs are relatively new systems and, therefore, the likelihood of damage during driving or maintenance is unknown. However, direct TPMS sensors are designed to minimize the likelihood of damage during driving or maintenance operations. Most sensors are valve-mounted and rest in the drop center well of the rim, and are contoured to minimize the likelihood of damage during tire servicing. They can be packaged in a high impact plastic material, which can withstand high G forces and mechanical vibration/shock levels associated with the tire/wheel system. The likelihood of damage during operation is also minimized by the selected mounting location and the protection offered by the rim during flat conditions. These factors, combined with training for service center technicians, should reduce the overall likelihood of damage.

    Beru Corporation, which manufacturers direct TPMSs, stated that it had sold over 800,000 direct TPMS wheel electronics and had received no reports of damage during operation or failures due to mounting error.

    The European Community (EC) supported a rulemaking requiring TPMSs. The EC Stated, "The European Community is convinced (as is the NHTSA) of the appropriateness of a regulation in this field, and of its justification for the safety of road users." The EC stressed "the paramount importance of reliability and accuracy of the technology." The EC stated that "a temperature correction device might be a necessary feature in order to guarantee the reliability and accuracy of the device."

    5. Costs and Benefits Estimates

    The Alliance stated that the benefits NHTSA estimated resulting from a reduction in stopping distance were based on three principal conclusions: (1) properly inflated tires result in shorter stopping distances than under-inflated tires; (2) these shorter stopping distances have equal safety benefits in all types of crashes and under all environmental conditions; and (3) the benefits of shorter stopping distances associated with properly-inflated tires will be greater for direct TPMSs than for indirect TPMSs. The Alliance argued that each of these conclusions is highly questionable and not supported by the information in the rulemaking record.

    The Alliance noted that in estimating the safety benefits resulting from stopping distance reductions, the agency relied on Goodyear data. The Alliance argued that these data "are neither conclusive with respect to the effect of under-inflation on stopping distance, nor reproducible according to the agency's own study demonstrating that there is no significant effect of tire under-inflation on stopping distance." The Alliance also argued that even if the Goodyear data were valid, NHTSA's benefits estimates must be adjusted to claim benefits only for vehicles experiencing the same conditions as those in the Goodyear tests, i.e., all four of the vehicle's tires are at 17 psi or below and on wet pavement. (11) The Alliance questioned NHTSA's assumption that 80 percent of drivers would respond appropriately to a direct TPMS, but that only 60 percent of drivers would respond appropriately to an indirect TPMS. The Alliance argued that there was no evidence in the record supporting this assumption.

    Finally, the Alliance agreed that TPMSs should produce some of the unquantified benefits listed in the NPRM. However, the Alliance stated that there was no evidence that these benefits would be greater for direct TPMSs than for indirect TPMSs.

    The ITRA stated that when developing training programs, it looks closely at tire performance and has the opportunity to analyze a significant number of tires that failed in service. They find that the single most common cause of tire failure is under-inflation. Thus, the ITRA claimed that the agency's benefits estimates may be under-stated.

    TRW stated that current indirect TPMSs would have to be upgraded to meet the requirements of the three-tire, 25 percent alternative. TRW estimated that these upgrades would increase the cost of indirect TPMSs to 60 percent of the cost of a direct TPMS. (12)

    IQ-mobil Electronics, a TPMS manufacturer in Germany, commented that it has developed "a batteryless transponder chip" that "costs half as much as the battery transmitter it replaces," thus reducing "high replacement costs for the tire transmitter, and an annual environmental burden of millions of batteries."


    E. Submission of Draft Final Rule to OMB

    Since this final rule is considered "significant" under Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review, it was subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under that Order. The agency submitted a draft final rule to OMB on December 18, 2001.

    The draft final rule specified short and long-term performance requirements. (13) For the short term, it specified a phase-in of the TPMS requirements beginning November 1, 2003. During the phase-in, the draft final rule permitted vehicles to comply with either a four-tire, 25 percent option, which essentially would have required manufacturers to install direct TPMSs or improved indirect TPMSs, or a one-tire, 30 percent option, which would have permitted manufacturers to install either direct TPMSs or any type of indirect TPMSs, including current indirect TPMSs. For the long-term, the period beginning November 1, 2006, the requirements of the four-tire, 25 percent option would have become mandatory for all vehicles subject to the TPMS standard.

    As explained further below in section V.A. "Alternative Long-Term Requirements Analyzed in Making Preliminary Determination," NHTSA analyzed three alternatives for the long term requirement in developing the draft final rule: a four-tire, 20 percent alternative, a three-tire, 25 percent alternative, and a four-tire, 25 percent alternative.


    F. OMB Return Letter

    After reviewing the draft final rule, OMB returned it to NHTSA for reconsideration, with a letter explaining its reasons for doing so, on February 12, 2002. (14)

    In the letter, OMB stated its belief that the draft final rule and accompanying regulatory impact analysis did not adequately demonstrate that the agency had selected the best available method of improving overall vehicle safety. OMB said further that: NHTSA should base its decision about the final rule on overall vehicle safety, instead of just tire safety; while direct TPMSs can detect under-inflation under a greater variety of circumstances than indirect TPMSs, the indirect system captures a substantial portion of the benefit provided by direct systems; NHTSA should consider a fourth alternative for the long-term requirement, a one-tire, 30 percent compliance option, indefinitely, since it would allow vehicle manufacturers to install current indirect TPMSs; NHTSA, in analyzing long-term alternatives, should consider both their impact on the availability of ABS as well as the potential safety benefits of ABS; and that NHTSA should provide a better explanation of the technical foundation for the agency's safety benefits estimates and subject those estimates to sensitivity analyses.


    G. Public Comments on OMB's Return Letter

    Consumers Union (CU) and Public Citizen (PC) submitted comments on the OMB return letter. (15)

    CU stated that direct TPMSs offer significant safety advantages over indirect TPMSs. CU recently performed tire air leakage testing and found that all four tires on a vehicle will likely lose pressure at a similar rate. (16) CU said that direct TPMSs could detect such pressure losses, while indirect TPMSs could not.

    CU questioned OMB's returning the TPMS final rule and asking NHTSA to consider the potential benefits of ABS in making a final decision on TPMS requirements. CU stated:

    We cannot understand the logic of delaying an important safety measure like direct tire pressure monitoring systems while NHTSA studies issues related to a less effective alternative because that alternative might encourage automakers to make ABS more widely available.

    Finally, CU stated that, while Congress mandated that NHTSA issue a regulation for TPMSs, Congress did not mandate that the agency issue a regulation requiring ABS to be installed in all vehicles.

    PC also supported the four-tire, 20 percent alternative. PC argued that indirect TPMSs have shortcomings, including:

    PC also objected to OMB's returning the TPMS final rule and asking NHTSA to consider the potential benefits of ABS in making a final decision on TPMS requirements. PC questioned OMB's return letter, arguing that it employs

    unproven assumptions about the cost and market effects of combining indirect systems with a requirement for anti-lock brakes (ABS) (a long-controversial area outside the focus of the agency's current rulemaking mandate), which, in turn, has only statistically insignificant and highly disputed safety effects.

    PC also questioned the potential benefits of ABS cited by OMB. In response to OMB's reliance on a study by Charles Farmer, the PC asserted that Mr. Farmer

    found that ABS had no statistically significant effect on crash fatalities. [Emphasis original.] Farmer was unable to determine whether ABS ultimately saved or cost lives across the vehicle fleet, making the "between 4 and 9 percent reduction" in crash fatalities [cited in the OMB letter] a statistical blip that may actually be zero percent.


    H. Congressional Hearing

    On February 28, 2002, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held an oversight hearing on the implementation of the TREAD Act. During the hearing, several Congressmen discussed their expectations for the TPMS rulemaking. Expressing concern about the cumulative damage done to a tire that is run while under-inflated, Congressman Tom Sawyer asked whether a warning threshold of 25 percent below placard pressure was low enough. Given the potential for catastrophic failure of tires run too long while under-inflated, the Congressman stated that it was important that the TPMS not encourage drivers to drive on under-inflated tires.

    Congressman Markey, the sponsor of the amendment that added the TPMS mandate to the TREAD Act, indicated that the reliance of drivers on the TPMS warning light could lead to safety problems if the TPMS does not provide sufficient warnings. He acknowledged that, during the consideration of the TPMS amendment, he had mentioned a TPMS that was then in use (an ABS-based TPMS on the Toyota Sienna). He said that while any TPMS was acceptable during the initial implementation period for the TPMS requirements, the real intent of the amendment is to provide a warning in all instances.




    4 Public Law 106-414.

    5 Tri-Level Study of the Causes of Traffic Accidents, Treat, J.R., et al. (1979) (Contract No. DOT HS 034-3-535), DOT HS 805 099, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    6 The range of injuries prevented was 0 to 21,270, and the range of deaths prevented was 0 to 158. These benefit estimates did not include deaths and injuries prevented due to reductions in crashes caused by blowouts and skidding/loss of control because the agency was unable to quantify those benefits at the time the NPRM was published. For this final rule, the agency was able to quantify those benefits. They are discussed in the Benefits section below. Net costs included $66.33 in vehicle costs minus $32.22 in fuel savings and $11.03 in tread wear savings. These cost estimates did not include maintenance costs. For this final rule, the agency has estimated maintenance costs. They are discussed in the Costs section below.

    7 The range of injuries prevented was 0 to 13,170, and the range of deaths prevented was 0 to 97. Net costs included $30.54 in vehicle costs minus $16.40 in fuel savings and $5.51 in tread wear savings. These estimates did not include maintenance costs. The agency has estimated maintenance costs for this final rule.

    8 RIGAC consists of representatives from the Tire Association of North America (TANA), Tread Rubber Manufacturers Group (TRMG), ITRA, and RMA.

    9 Standard No. 110 specifies requirements for tire selection to prevent tire overloading.

    10 RMA stated that normal air pressure loss is approximately 1 to 2 psi per month.

    11 Goodyear conducted its tests on pavement with 0.05 inch water on the surface and found significant effects on stopping distance only when the pressure in the vehicle's tires was lowered to 17 psi.

    12 This estimate would apply only to vehicles that were already equipped with ABS.

    13 The rationales for the provisions of that draft final rule are discussed below in section VI.A., "Summary of Preliminary Determination about the Final Rule."

    14 A copy of the return letter has been placed in the docket (Docket No. NHTSA-2000-8572-202). The letter also is available electronically at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/dot_revised_tire_rtnltr.pdf.

    15 Both letters have been placed in the docket. The CU letter is Docket No. NHTSA-2000-8572-204, and the PC letter is Docket No. NHTSA-2000-8572-199.

    16 CU tested three samples of 36 tire models over a six-month period. CU mounted the tires on new rims and inflated the tires to 30 psi. Then CU stored the tires indoors at room temperature for six months and checked their inflation pressure each month. After six months, the average pressure loss was about 4.4 psi. A copy of CU's test procedures and the test results has been placed in the docket. (Docket No. NHTSA-2000-8572-203.)