According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 3.2 billion tires were recalled between 2009 and 2013, yet less than 24% of those tires were actually recovered! What does this mean? It means a whopping 2.5 billion possibly defective tires are still on the road! This is a scary statistic. How does this happen?
For almost 50 years, the U.S. federal government and the tire industry have been grappling with the issue of tire registration. Legislation has been passed and amended numerous times in an effort to link a tire sold to the owner of that tire and vehicle. The reason so few recalled tires are ever recovered is the industry’s inability to make this connection. At the core there are two main components to tire registration—who owns the tire, and what tire do they own? Determining what tire the consumer has is accomplished by a unique identification number stamped on each side of the tire. Starting with the letters DOT, the Tire Identification Number (TIN) allows you to determine who made the tire, the tire’s size, and, most importantly, when it was made. This identifier allows tire manufacturers to track tires to specific batches and can be used for quality control and to determine what specific tires need to be recalled, should the situation arise.
The flaw in the current system is connecting the TIN to who purchased the tire. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires that all tires sold have the TIN and customer information registered with the tire manufacturer. Registration is handled manually with a post card or, more recently, electronically via the web. The responsibility lies with the seller of the tire to inform the consumer of the need to register their tires and provide them the tools (postcard or website) to do so. It’s the consumer’s responsibility to actually do it, although some tire retailers will do it for their customers.
The registration process is where it all falls apart, unfortunately, as very few tires ever get registered. And even the ones that are registered can be lost if the chain of ownership is broken, for instance, if the vehicle is sold or the original tires are removed. Even according to a senior member of the NTSB, the process for capturing tire information is broken, despite multiple legislative efforts to create and enforce that capture. As my previous article on tire related fatalities points out, the sheer number of accidents associated with tire problems should dictate that more be done to fix this process.
Tomorrow, I will look deeper into capturing the TIN.
David Boyle is a 25-year industry expert and the CEO of Tire Profiles the leading supplier of tire and alignment measurement solutions.