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Legal Blog

FMCSA Denies Petition to Implement Truck Tire Inflation Regulations

In 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) instituted truck tire inflation regulations for motor carrier vehicles. In January 2014, the American Trucking Association (ATA) filed an objection with the FMCSA requesting certain aspects of the regulations be removed. The ATA claimed that the language of the guidelines was confusing, making it difficult to accurately determine appropriate tire pressure – all of which leads to unjustified three-point violation citations. More than three and a half years later, the FMCSA has denied the ATA’s petition and upheld its original regulations.

However, the FMCSA has agreed to cooperate with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) in order to arrive at a compromised position regarding enforcing the existing tire inflation regulations.

Have you suffered a serious injury due to a trucking accident? At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., our experienced truck accident lawyers have a thorough understanding of how the legal process works in order to facilitate your claim for compensation. We can fight on your behalf for the recovery you need.

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The Importance of Truck Tire Inflation Regulations

Parties involved in these issues agree that properly inflated tires are important and that neglecting tire inflation is detrimental to both independent owner/operators and fleets. Checking tires for underinflation and damage is a key component of the inspection process before and after a trip. When tires are underinflated, the consequences can include reduced fuel mileage and less profit for trucking companies. The service life of an underinflated tire may be significantly less than a properly inflated tire, as well.

The Major Issue

The point of contention with regards to the current truck tire inflation regulations is the difference between how roadside inspectors and drivers determine proper tire pressure. Drivers most often utilize a load-based measurement to determine appropriate tire pressure. The problem with this mode of determination is that the pressure requirements change each time a load is removed and another load is added to the rig. Hour-of-service regulations that limit permissible time spent on the road make it very difficult to perform tire inflation adjustments for each hauled load. Therefore, most trucking companies set a tire pressure standard for drivers to check for and maintain.

Current Roadside Pressure Inspection Regulations

Under current truck tire inflation regulations, State inspectors are required to follow CFR § 393.75(h) which states the following:

“(1) No motor vehicle shall be operated on a tire which has a cold inflation pressure less than that specified for the load being carried.

“(2) If the inflation pressure of the tire has been increased by heat because of the recent operation of the vehicle, the cold inflation pressure shall be estimated by subtracting the inflation buildup factor shown in Table 1 from the measured inflation pressure.”

In practical terms, roadside inspectors check if a tire sidewall matches the recommended pressure. If the inspectors suspect underinflation, for evaluation purposes they reduce the actual pressure reading by five or 15 psi based on the period of time in which the vehicle has been in operation. Of course, the pressure deductions are applied based on the expansion of hot air in the tire due to friction.

Underinflation Determination as Guesswork

A major issue that exists with the process described above is that state inspectors must rely on individual interpretation to determine whether tire pressure is sufficient. Inspectors do not have a measurable way to determine how long a vehicle has been in operation, and many times they are not able to weigh trailers.

Due to the flexible nature of the interpretation process, more than 30,000 tire inflation citations were issued to drivers between 2012 and 2014. Because of this, the ATA requested that the previously mentioned paragraph of regulations be withdrawn. If the FMCSA had responded favorably to the ATA’s request, the resulting regulations would only leave penalties for flat tires or tires with leaks that can be heard.

The ATA argued that that each citation results in a three-point violation applied to the driver’s record. These points add up quickly against a commercial driver’s license, and they also take some time to be removed. This generates concern that some drivers may lose their jobs as a result of these violations.

Additional Factors Causing Problems

Additional issues arise in regard to enforcing the current truck tire inflation regulations. The ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) outlines several arguments that are intended to demonstrate the impossibility of measuring tire inflation in a fair and simple way under the existing regulations. These are:

  • Various factors affect how much a tire expands while on the road. These include tire construction, ambient temperature, and operational time. Therefore, applying psi reduction of five or 15 is too arbitrary.
  • There is a significant difference between the tire pressures required to support empty or light loads as opposed to full or heavy loads. Therefore, reducing the measured pressure by 15 psi for tires carrying a light load may result in a grossly unfair low pressure reading as well as an unfair violation against the driver.
  • Steer axle tires support a steady amount of weight and consequently can handle a higher load range. These tires are often recycled and placed under rear axles. As such, they can operate safely at lower pressures. The problem from the inspection point of view is that these tires, although operating safely in this position, may appear very underinflated.

The FMCSA appears to agree that removing the interpretive guessing out of enforcing the truck tire inflation regulations would be a positive development and sufficiently address the ATA’s concerns. The agency is in favor of cooperating with the Commercial Safety Vehicle Alliances Vehicle Committee to properly train inspectors and set up workable regulatory guidelines.

Contact a Skilled Houston Trucking Accident Attorney

At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., we have over four decades of experience helping our clients obtain the financial recovery they need in the wake of suffering a severe injury at the hands of another responsible party. If you have incurred an injury due to a trucking accident and you need to file a claim for compensation, we’re here to fight for you.

Call us today at (281) 283-8500, or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation.