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From Products Liability Law Daily, July 24, 2014

Agency looks to amend tire identification symbol codes

By Joe Bichl

Under a requirement in 49 CFR part 574, adopted in 1971, one sidewall of every tire that is newly manufactured or retreaded must be labeled with a tire identification number (TIN). The TIN assists consumers in identifying which tires are subject to recall and remedy campaigns for safety defects and noncompliances, according to NHTSA.

Because the agency has nearly depleted the two-symbol codes to identify new tire plants, it is proposing to expand the first portion of the TIN, known as the “manufacturer identifier,” from two symbols to three for manufacturers of new tires. According to the proposal, this would “substantially increase the number of unique combinations of characters that can be used to identify individual manufacturers of new tires.”

From its adoption in 1971, the TIN has consisted of up to four groups of symbols. The first group of symbols identifies the manufacturer of the tire. The second and third groupings provide information about the tire itself. The fourth grouping is the date code, which identifies the week and year during which the tire was manufactured.

NHTSA issues new tire and retreaded tire plant codes to manufacturers who apply for them. Historically, the agency issues new retreader codes at the rate of about 30 per year. For new tire manufacturers, who have a two-symbol code, the entire supply of 900 plant codes has been depleted, NHTSA indicated. Because of an increase in tire manufacturers, the agency has found it necessary to reissue previously issued, but currently unused plant codes. At the current rate of issuance of new plant codes, NHTSA has projected that it will run out of reissuable plant codes in a few months. As a result, the agency is proposing to change the two-symbol plant code to a three-symbol plant code, which it believes is “the best long-term solution to the lack of supply of new manufacturer plant codes.”

In addition, NHTSA is proposing to standardize the length of the tire identification number to eliminate confusion that could arise from the variable length of tire identification numbers. The proposal would standardize the length of the TIN at 13 symbols for new tires and seven symbols for retreaded tires, making it easier to identify a TIN from which a symbol is missing.

Comments on the proposal must be submitted on or before August 25, 2014.

MainStory: TopStory ProposedRules MotorEquipmentNews

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