Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Agency Failure?

When should Federal agencies intervene on behalf of the public?  Given yesterday's remarks by former EPA head Christie Todd Whitman regarding air quality near ground zero, perhaps a review of that agency's protocols is needed.  And perhaps officials at NHTSA should intervene now.


Federal officials have told a small New Jersey importer to recall 450,000 radial tires for pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans after the company disclosed that its Chinese manufacturer had stopped including a safety feature that prevented the tires from separating.

Tread separation is the same defect that led to the recall of millions of Firestone tires in 2000. At the time, tire failure was linked to an increased risk of rollover of light trucks and S.U.V.'s.

The importing company, Foreign Tire Sales of Union, N.J., had asked for federal
assistance in the recall, but was denied any help.

The company, Foreign Tire Sales of Union, N.J., had originally sought the federal government's help with a recall, saying it did not have enough money to recall all the tires itself. Typically, importers are responsible for the cost of recalling defective foreign products.

But officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it remained the responsibility of Foreign Tire Sales to pay for the costs of the recall, said Heather Hopkins, a spokeswoman for the agency. She said the agency wanted "a full tire recall" by the company.

Such a decision might be appropriate in other circumstances, but apparently not for a company such as this.

Foreign Tire Sales, which has just seven employees, buys foreign tires, imports them and then resells them to domestic distributors. Mr. Lavigne said the company did not physically handle the tires.

There has already been possibly 2 accidents involving vehicles with tires from the same manufacturer.  Shouldn't the agency act to protect the public to the extent that it can, or at least attempt to verify FTS' inability to handle the recall?

"We don't really know where to start," he said. "There's no way F.T.S. can recall this universe of tires. It will have to go belly up."


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