Court deflates rule on tire pressure monitors

Aug. 7, 2003 — A federal appeals court in New York has nullified a rule that set the performance requirements and deadlines for automakers to install tire pressure monitoring (TPM) systems in U.S. passenger vehicles.

Wednesday’s ruling (PDF, 139 KB) sends the issue back to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which will begin the rulemaking process anew if it decides not to appeal the decision, a NHTSA spokesman said.

The court found that NHTSA’s rule, issued in June 2002, ran “contrary to the intent of the TREAD Act” (PDF, 122 KB), a law passed in 2000 that requires automakers to install tire monitors.

The 2002 rule allowed for monitors that can detect whether only one tire is significantly underinflated, a standard that can be achieved with “indirect” monitors that piggyback on a car’s antilock braking system. But the indirect monitors often cannot tell when more than one tire deflate in unison — a feature that, according to Wedneday’s ruling, is required under the TREAD Act. Currently, only “direct” monitors that use MEMS pressure sensors can meet the more stringent standard.

The petition was brought by Public Citizen Inc., New York Public Interest Research Group and the Center for Auto Safety.

– David Forman


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