LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - You could be driving around on dangerous tires and not know it. Industry experts say the system for tracking tires that have been recalled for safety defects is broken. But, there is major disagreement on how to fix it.
Some safety groups want the same technology used in new credit cards to be put into tires to more easily track them. Right now, it's a less sophisticated system that's being pushed by tire companies.
In 2014, two people were killed, seven children and another person injured, in a church van accident along I-75 near Lake City, Florida after a rear tire blew flipping the van onto its side. Two years earlier BF Goodrich recalled that doomed tire. The safety recall notice sent to tire owners in July 2012 stated that "it is possible that any one of the tires being recalled may experience tread loss and/or rapid air loss resulting from tread belt separation. This condition may increase the risk of a vehicle crash."
Vehicle safety advocate Sean Kane, the founder and president of Safety Research & Strategies, is now among those calling on the government to improve the tire recall process. Kane's group joined the Tire Industry Association, calling on lawmakers to require tire manufacturers to install RFID chips or similar technology in the sidewalls of tires. Those chips, Kane says, could be easily scanned by retailers, registered to the owner, and then located in a recall.
"Absent other meaningful reform like the electronic scan ability of a tire, we're never going to get to the point of recovering tires that we need to," Kane said.
Legislation being debated on Capitol Hill right now would streamline tire recalls by improving registration rates, which have fallen below 15% according to some estimates. But S.B. 1732 stops short of requiring the RFID chips and scanning system Kane other groups say are necessary.
That plan is supported by the Rubber Manufacturers Association, which lobbies on behalf of tire manufacturers, and calls for retailers to manually input the ID code on the side of the tires into a computer registration database so they can be tracked.
"I mean RFID may someday be part of a solution to all this," said Dan Zielinski, RMA's Senior Vice President of Public Affairs. "But it's going to take years to try and implement a system."
Kevin Rohlwing, Senior Vice President of training for the Tire Industry Association, says that's too much of a burden especially on smaller, mom and pop tire shops.
"You have to write down the TIN for every tire then you have to go to a website," Rohlwing explained. "You have to look it up on a website, you have to compare the numbers that you wrote down off the tire to the numbers that are on the website, and there's just so many opportunities for error there."
The groups calling for RFID chips to be put into tires want the current proposal for the less aggressive registration system pulled from consideration all together until an NTSB report on tire safety is completed later this year.
Tire makers say they don't oppose the RFID technology, but think getting the new retailer based registration system up and running in the meantime, is better than doing nothing to improve the current system.