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Action on Tire Pressure Monitoring Rule Is Long Overdue

Sept. 15, 2004

Action on Tire Pressure Monitoring Rule Is Long Overdue

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook*

It’s about time that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) moved forward on its tire pressure monitoring rule. After a lawsuit brought by Public Citizen, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an order overturning the agency’s rule as contrary to directions from Congress that consumers must be protected with a warning system indicating when any tire on a vehicle is significantly underinflated. 

The court’s August 2003 decision directed the agency to develop a new rule, and the agency could have written a new final rule in a timely fashion. However, NHTSA dragged its feet, doing nothing over the past year and forcing Public Citizen to return to court in July 2004 to ask the court to order the agency to act.

Today, rather than issuing a new final tire pressure monitoring rule as it should have, the agency issued a proposed rule and opened yet another delay-inducing docket.  NHTSA’s proposal reflects the court’s determination that its previous rule was inadequate, leaving too many drivers and passengers unaware of dangerously underinflated tires. We urge the agency to issue a new and legal final rule promptly and without further delay. According to agency calculations, 149 people needlessly die each year that this rule remains in limbo.

At the same time that it issued its proposal, NHTSA also answered several petitions from the auto industry, granting its pleas to let manufacturers off the hook if their tire pressure monitoring systems do not work with replacement tires. This decision by NHTSA is absurd, because vehicles always require several sets of tires throughout their lifetimes. It’s feasible for manufacturers to recommend replacement tires that would work and for the technology to be flexible enough to accommodate new tires.

*Joan Claybrook was administrator of NHTSA from 1977-1981.