Light Truck Tires Eyed in Traffic Deaths
November 21, 2000
WASHINGTON – Federal safety regulators opened an investigation today into Goodyear light-truck tires linked to at least 15 traffic deaths, three months after reports of tread separations on Firestone tires led to a nationwide recall.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received 37 complaints about tread separations on Goodyear’s Load Range E tires, including reports of 31 crashes involving 15 deaths and 129 injuries. Twelve of the deaths occurred in the United States and three in Saudi Arabia.
The accidents have involved light trucks, passenger vans and small buses, according to NHTSA. The investigation will examine 21 million tires manufactured between 1991 and 1999.
A preliminary inquiry
Goodyear was notified that the agency opened a preliminary investigation today, and company officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Goodyear spokesman Chris Aked said Monday evening that the Load Range E tires have been used as original equipment on large trucks made by Ford Motor Co. and Daimler-Chrysler AG, including the Dodge Ram 4250 and 350 series trucks. Many of those trucks have been modified for commercial purposes, he said.
The tires are sold under many different brand names and sizes, and NHTSA said it would develop a complete list during the investigation.
NHTSA opens any safety investigation with a preliminary inquiry in which the government and manufacturer exchange paperwork that includes any complaints. An investigation eventually can lead to a recall, but many end without such action.
Extra layer of nylon
Aked said the Akron, Ohio-based tire maker had investigated 30 accidents involving the tires and attributed them to problems such as overloading and under-inflation, not a defect.
“We’ve said all along that we’re very confident in the integrity of the tires,” Aked said. “There is not any issue with the quality of the tires. There was no reason to take any action as far as I’m concerned.”
Goodyear began putting an extra layer of nylon in the tires in 1996 after discovering that some of the tires were prone to failure at high speeds and at high temperatures. But Goodyear said the overall failure rate for the tires was very low and did not issue a recall.
‘A lot of red flags’
Chris Spagnoli, a Santa Monica, Calif., attorney suing Goodyear over tread separation accidents, said: “I think there is a lot of red flags about these tires both from the accidents that we have information about and the public part of the deposition testimony.”
Similar allegations led to Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.’s Aug. 9 recall of 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires. NHTSA has received reports of 119 deaths and more than 500 injuries involving Firestone tires.
Reports of tread separations also have plagued Continental General Tire Inc. Lawyers for accident victims suing the Charlotte, N.C.-based company say it deceived the government in a 1993 probe of its GT52S, Ameri-Way and Ameri-Tech tires.
But NHTSA said it will not investigate the allegations because the five-year statute of limitations to penalize companies that withhold information has passed.
In a statement, Continental insisted it “cooperated fully with all requests made by the NHTSA in its 1993 investigation.”
SOURCE: Associated Press