The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation has opened a rare tire defect investigation into the Michelin XZA 2 Energy tires, used primarily for tractor-trailer applications, particularly those configured as auto haulers. The Preliminary Evaluation, a low-level inquiry, is based on six complaints in NHTSA’s Vehicle Owner Questionnaires database, going back to 2012. Five of the VOQs are from a single fleet of trucks manufactured by Paccar Inc., but each complaint referenced multiple failures on multiple trucks. One of the complaints not included in the Opening Resume, but involves the XZA 2 Energy tire, claims that over-heating is a factor in the failures:
A 2014 Peterbilt 388 truck equipped with Michelin XZA 2 Energy tires, size 295-60-22.5. The contact stated that while traveling approximately 66 mph, the front passenger's side tire blew and the contact crashed into the median. There were no injuries. The contact also stated that the front driver's side tire blew the following day. ..The consumer stated this incident has occurred four times in 1 year, on both the passenger's and driver's side. The consumer stated the tires are not lasting due to the heat.
Tires are infrequent targets for NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigations. In the last three years, the agency has opened only one other tire-related investigation covering 31,820 vehicles equipped with non-compliant Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems. Opened in late June, the investigation focused on alerting automakers that might have installed TPMS electronic control units manufactured by BF1 Systems Limited between 2007 and 2014. The defective units might not illuminate the Malfunction Indicator Light when a vehicle’s ignition is deactivated and then reactivated. The investigation closed three months later, when all of the involved vehicle companies announced recalls.
NHTSA’s lack of investigatory experience in tires was one of the reasons cited for the agency’s slowness to react to the Firestone ATX / Wilderness crises in 2000. While the tire standards were upgraded significantly following Congressional intervention, NHTSA has done little since then to investigate tire defects.
How the agency addresses Michelin may be an important bellweather investigation for tire defect issues. We will continue to watch this story as the investigation continues; check back with us for further developments.