13342 - 72d Avenue
Surrey, B.C. Canada
Dear Mr. Thomas:
This responds to your letter of December 19, 1994, and your telephone conversation with Walter Myers of my staff on that date, in which you requested a waiver enabling you to import into the United States truck tire casings without the DOT symbol on the sidewalls but with more than 2/32 inch tread depth for the purpose of retreading. You stated that casings with less than 2/32 inch tread depth are usually not of sufficient quality to be retreaded.
By way of background information, Chapter 301 of Title 49, United States Code (U.S.C.) authorizes this agency to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. The statute requires that all newly manufactured motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment comply with all FMVSSs applicable to that product on the date of manufacture. Generally speaking, upon the sale of that vehicle or item of equipment to the first retail purchaser, the use of that vehicle or item of equipment becomes a matter of state regulation.
However, 49 U.S.C. '30112(a) provides:
[A] person may not . . . import into the United States, any motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment manufactured on or after the date an applicable motor vehicle safety standard . . . takes effect unless the vehicle or equipment complies with the standard . . . .
In your telephone conversation, you asked about importing used passenger car tires from Canada into the United States. The effect of section 30112(a) with regard to passenger car tires is to require that such tires which are manufactured after the effective date of FMVSS No. 109, New pneumatic tires (January 1, 1968), must be certified as complying with the requirements
of that standard, whether the tire is now new or used. That certification is exhibited by molding the letters "DOT" into or onto the sidewall of the tire. To be legally imported into the United States, therefore, used passenger car tires must either display the DOT symbol on the sidewall of the tire or be accompanied by proof that the tire was manufactured before January 1, 1968.
With respect to tires for motor vehicles other than passenger cars, FMVSS No. 119, New pneumatic tires for vehicles other than passenger cars, became effective March 1, 1975. That standard also requires display of the DOT symbol as the manufacturer's certification that the tire complies with all applicable FMVSSs. Accordingly, in order for such tires to be imported into the United States, they also must either display the DOT symbol on the tire sidewall or be accompanied by proof that the tires were manufactured prior to March 1, 1975.
Used tires for use on motor vehicles other than passenger cars which have less than 2/32 inch of tread depth and which are imported solely for retreading may be imported without the DOT symbol on the sidewall. I have enclosed a copy of a letter to Mr. Roy Littlefield, which explains in detail the requirements of this narrow exception to the requirement that used tires have a DOT symbol on the sidewall to be legally imported. In determining that these tires are not motor vehicle equipment, NHTSA found persuasive that those tires cannot legally be used on the public highways, and require remanufacturing before they can be operated on the highways.
Although this agency has statutory authority to grant exceptions to compliance with the FMVSSs in certain specific categories of situations, NHTSA does not have the authority to waive requirements such as the one at issue here. Therefore, any used tire imported into the United States must either display the DOT symbol, be accompanied by proof that they were manufactured prior to the effective date of applicable FMVSSs, or in the case of tires for motor vehicles other than passenger cars, have less than 2/32 inch tread depth and be imported solely for retreading.
I hope the information provided above is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Mr. Myers at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel