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New Tire Pressure Monitoring Rule: A Fraud on Consumers

May 30, 2002

New Tire Pressure Monitoring Rule: A Fraud on Consumers

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

The federal rule issued today giving auto manufacturers the choice of installing one of two types of tire pressure monitoring systems is inadequate and perpetuates a fraud on consumers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) earlier had proposed a stronger rule that would better protect consumers. We are deeply disappointed that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) unwisely overruled NHTSA.

Proper tire pressure is critical. When tire pressure is low, tires experience more wear and tear, which can lead tires to fail. Congress required NHTSA to issue a tire pressure rule requiring manufacturers to equip vehicles with systems that enable consumers to know when their tires are underinflated.

After receiving nearly 200 comments and holding at least 20 meetings, NHTSA recommended the installation of a “direct” system, which monitors the pressure of all four tires even when the car is stopped and provides drivers with comprehensive and accurate information. “Indirect” systems, which can be installed only in vehicles with anti-lock brakes, measure differences in the rotational speed of tires. They do not work if all four tires are equally underinflated or if the vehicle is not moving.

The new regulation gives manufacturers a choice of installing either a direct or indirect system. This will provide consumers with fewer safety benefits. Companies likely will install the indirect system as standard equipment because it is cheaper, allowing them to charge a high mark-up for the superior direct systems.

Because this standard is wholly inadequate, Public Citizen intends to sue NHTSA to force it to adopt a rule that better protects the public.


*Joan Claybrook was NHTSA administrator from 1977 to 1981.

Click here To view a March 11, 2002, letter sent to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs about the tire pressure monitoring rule.