Court Overturns Bush Administration Weak Tire Pressure Rule

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

In a major rebuke to the Bush Administration in a decision issued on August 6, 2003, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) rule issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on June 5, 2002. The Court found that the cheaper and less accurate indirect tire pressure monitors were "both contrary to law and arbitrary and capricious" while the more accurate direct tire pressure monitors complied with the Safety Act. In remanding the case to NHTSA for further rulemaking, the Court has effectively ruled that NHTSA cannot consider indirect systems which are inaccurate 50% of the time. An indirect system uses the antilock brake system to compare wheel speeds in diagonally opposed wheels and cannot tell if (1) all four tires, (2) two tires on the same axle, or (3) two tires on the same side are underinflated. A direct system monitors the pressure in each individual tire. The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Auto Safety (CAS), Public Citizen and the New York Public Interest Research Group.

CAS Executive Director Clarence Ditlow said:
"This decision will block the pro-industry, anti-consumer, deregulatory campaign of the Bush Administration just like the 1984 Supreme Court decision in State Farm overturning the 1982 revocation of the airbag rule blocked the deregulatory campaign of the Reagan Administration. Direct tire pressure monitors are more accurate and will prevent 50% more deaths and injuries each year than indirect systems. The Bush Administration put auto industry profits over consumer lives because the indirect systems are $9.74 cheaper per vehicle than direct systems. The Court told NHTSA "cheapest is not best" and that it must "bear in mind Congress intended safety to be the pre-eminent factor under the Safety Act.""

Click here for the court’s decision (.PDF) – 8/6/02

U.S. Court Rejects Tire Safety Rule – 8/7/02