Mr. Russ Hunt
Sr. Vice President
Snider Tire Inc.
P.O. Box 16046
Greensboro, NC 27416-6046
Dear Mr. Hunt:
This responds to your letter asking several questions about the requirements of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for sidewall markings for retreaded tires for buses. Your questions are answered below.
It might be helpful to begin with background information. NHTSA is authorized to issue Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment (see 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act). NHTSA does not provide approval of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Instead, manufacturers are required to self-certify that their products conform to all applicable safety standards that are in effect on the date of manufacture. NHTSA selects a sampling of new vehicles and equipment each year to determine their compliance with applicable FMVSSs. If our testing or examination reveals an apparent noncompliance, we may require the manufacturer to remedy the noncompliance, and may initiate an enforcement proceeding if necessary to ensure that the manufacturer takes appropriate action.
There is no FMVSS applicable to retreaded tires for vehicles other than passenger cars. However, 49 CFR Part 574 (hereinafter Part 574) is applicable to retreaded tires for vehicles other than passenger vehicles, including buses. Part 574 was issued to facilitate notification of safety recalls to purchasers of defective or nonconforming tires, pursuant to Sections 30118 and 30119 of Title 49, United States Code.
Part 574 requires each tire sold in the United States, including retreaded tires, to be labeled with a Tire Identification Number (TIN) in order to facilitate a recall in the event of a defect or noncompliance. Under section 574.5 paragraphs (a) through (d), each TIN consists of: (a) the manufacturers or retreaders identification mark, (b) the tire size symbol, (c) manufacturers optional code, and (d) the date code; i.e., the week and year of manufacture. With respect to your question about maximum load and inflation pressure, no regulation requires retreaded tires (other than those for passenger cars) to show this information.
Furthermore, Part 574 requires that manufacturers shall record and maintain the name and address of the tire seller and the tire purchaser, as well as the TIN. The collection of this information ensures that tire purchasers can be notified in the event that a tire they have purchased is recalled. This requirement applies to manufacturers and brand name owners of new and retreaded motor vehicle tires. [emphasis added].
With that background in mind, I turn now to your specific questions. In instances where you have referred to tires, we have interpreted this to mean tires for use in vehicles other than passenger cars, as you stated these tires were for use in buses. (Pneumatic tires for use in passenger vehicles are regulated under FMVSS No. 117, Retreaded Pneumatic Tires, and the following answers are not applicable to those tires.)
1. In the bead to bead retreading process, using a carcass that was certified to FMVSS 119 when the tire was new, must the retreader replace all markings required by FMVSS No. 119 for the original new tire?
Our answer is no. In the bead to bead retreading process, as you state, the entire exterior surface is mechanically buffed, which completely removes the surface layer of the tires and all tire markings and labelings. The retreaded tire is not subject to FMVSS No. 119, or to any other FMVSS. Accordingly, a retreader of tires for use other than in passenger cars is not required to mark the tire as specified by FMVSS No. 119.
However, under 49 CFR 574.5, a retreader must mark the sidewall with a TIN. According to that section, each tire manufacturer must conspicuously label on one sidewall of each tire it manufactures, by permanently molding into or onto the sidewall, a TIN containing the following four pieces of information, paraphrased from section 574.5 paragraphs (a) through (d):
(a) Three symbols representing the retreaders assigned identification mark.
(b) Two symbols identifying the retread matrix in which the tire was processed or a tire size code if a matrix was not used to process the retreaded tire. Each retreader shall maintain a record of each symbol used, with the corresponding matrix or tire size and shall provide such record to NHTSA upon written request.
(c) At the option of the manufacturer, up to four symbols as a descriptive code for the purpose of identifying significant characteristics of the tire. Each retreader shall maintain a detailed record of any descriptive or brand name owner code used, which shall be provided to NHTSA upon written request.
(d) Four symbols identifying the week and year of manufacture.
It should be noted that section 574.5 specifically anticipates the fact that tire sidewall information may be removed from the sidewall during the retreading process. Section 574.5 reads, in part:
The DOT symbol shall not appear on tires to which no Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard is applicable, except that the DOT symbol on tires for use on motor vehicles other than passenger cars may, prior to retreading, be removed from the sidewall or allowed to remain on the sidewall, at the retreaders option.
2. When a tire has been retreaded using the bead to bead process, must all required marking be accurately reproduced onto the retreaded tire?
Our answer is no. We do not require information to be reproduced on the retreaded tire. However, as discussed above, the retreader must mark the retreaded tire with an appropriate TIN.
Questions 3 and 4 will be answered together.
3. Is there a safety issue if on a new tire the load values marked are incorrectly overstated and/or the pressure values are incorrectly understated as referenced by the manufacturer and in the standards of FMVSS 119?
4. Is there a safety issue on a tire retreaded by the bead to bead process if the load values are incorrectly overstated and/or the pressure values are incorrectly understated with reference to the tire standards of FMVSS 119?
For both questions three and four, there are potential safety issues if the load values marked are incorrectly overstated and/or the pressure values are incorrectly understated. If the tire is loaded to the incorrectly marked level, it could result in the tire overheating, tread separation, or even a tire blowout. Maintaining proper tire pressure and not overloading tires are important measures for driving safety.
5. Is leaving the markings as is on correctly marked carcasses, as we do as normal process on all top cap retreads, legal under DOT/NHTSA laws and regulations?
As there is no FMVSS regulating markings on retreaded tires (for vehicles other than passenger cars), it is legal to leave the markings as is. However, the tire retreader must still mark the retreaded tire with a TIN and keep all appropriate records, as discussed above. See also our answer to question 6.
6. Is leaving the markings as is on these incorrectly marked retreaded tires, as we do as normal process on all top cap retreads, legal under DOT/NHTSA laws and regulations? If not, please cite laws and regulations violated and recommend corrective action.
Based on the circumstances you described, although it does not appear that Snider would be violating a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard if it left the incorrect markings on the retreaded tires, we could use our defect authority to address safety problems resulting from the marked tires. The mislabeling you describe could result in serious safety issues. In your letter, you state that the markings on the tire indicate that the max tire loads are labeled substantially higher than this class of tire is actually rated to handle. As you stated, this tire is rated at 5,205 lbs at 110 PSI (single load application), and 4,805 lbs at 100 PSI (dual load application). The markings, however, indicate that the tire is rated at 6,045 lbs at 105 PSI single (840 lbs above the actual maximum rating) and 5,300 lbs at 95 PSI dual (495 lbs above the actual maximum rating). Using this tire under these conditions would both overload and underinflate the tire, leading to possible tire blowouts and severe accidents. Whether such a condition would constitute a safety-related defect would depend on a thorough review of its frequency and the risks involved.
In view of the safety problems that could result from tires that are marked differently than their performance capability, you may not wish to leave unsafe markings on the tires, as these could cause consumers to use the tires in an unsafe manner. NHTSA could pursue unreasonable safety risks associated with the markings as part of our defect authority. Under the Vehicle Safety Act, manufacturers are responsible for notifying purchasers of defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge. Any manufacturer which fails to provide notification of or remedy for a defect is also subject to substantial civil penalties (see 49 CFR 578.6). You may also be subject to liability under State tort law, so we suggest that you consult with a private attorney and/or insurance carrier.
Questions 7-9 relate to issues of who is liable in the event of damage, injury, or death arising from incorrectly marked retreaded tires. As noted above, these questions fall outside the purview of NHTSA Chief Counsel, and should be discussed with your private attorney.
10. Should end users be concerned about being able to identify tires that have been retreaded in the Bead to Bead process in the event of a recall by the original manufacturer of the casing if the original casing was certified to FMVSS 119? (There is not enough information to identify the casing as a recall tire.)
With regard to retreaded tires, you are concerned that an end-user may not be able to identify the tire as a recalled model because of the lack of identifying markings. End-users should always be aware of safety recalls, and should contact the tire manufacturer if there is a question about whether the end-users tires were recalled. In addition, the information collected pursuant to Part 574 should enable the manufacturer to contact the purchaser in the event that the end-users tires are recalled.
We hope that we have answered your questions. If you require additional clarification, please contact Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke
 See 49 CFR 574.7(a)-(b).
 A person who retreads tires is considered to be a manufacturer under the Vehicle Safety Act. The retreading process involves significant manufacturing operations, which do not differ substantially from those of manufacturing new tires. See letter to Frank S. Perkin, Esq., Jan 22, 1988.
 Section 574.5 also provides the option of using a laser to etch the information is paragraph (d) rather than permanently molding the information onto the tire sidewall.