The Supreme Court cleared the way yesterday for the government to establish uniform quality grading standards for all passenger-car tires-about 200 million of them each year.
A Department of Transportation spokesman said the grading program probably will be in effect by the end of the year. The program will rate tires on the basis of tread wear, traction and resistance to high temperatures.
The court let stand a ruling last September with which the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rebuffed efforts by eight the manufacturers to block the program. They estimated annual compliance costs at between $42 million and $150 million.
The program would not ban tires of low quality. Instead, it would enable consumers to make informed appraisals of quality in relation to price.
The treadwear rating, for example, would be "100" for a tire that lasted 30,000 miles in federal tests on a 500-mile course near San Angelo, Tex. Ten points would be added for every additional 3,000 miles of wear, and 10 would be subtracted for every 3,000 miles under 30,000.
Congress ordered the grading program in the auto-safety law of 1966, but the department's National Highway Traffic Safety Aministration repeatedly delayed implementation.
In May 1975 the agency issued regulations prescribling extensive testing procedures after a suit to compel impementation of the law had been filed by Ralph Nader's Public Interest Research Group and had been settled with a consent decree.
The appellate court said that agency administrators responsible for enforcing the law had built "a strange record of nonfeasance" during 10 years of "procreastination!"
"A law of the land was allowed to lie unheeded until a constumer organization headed by . . . Nader hailed the agency into a federal court to account for its nonfeasance," the opionion said.
In a petition to the Supreme Court to review the decision, the tire companies alleged that the appeals court and the agency both had relied upon information that had not been part of the rule-making record and on which the manufacturers had had no opportunity to comment.
The the companies also alleged that the regulations were invalid because they specified certain tests that, when repeated under certain conditions, do not allow for perfectly indentical results.
In 1972, a dispute between Peabody Coal Co. and three locals of the United Mine Workers of America in Western Kentucky led to a work stoppage.
The company contended that the national Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of 1971 was violated because union leaders neither returned to work nor tried to lead members back.
The union contended the members stayed out despite th efforts of leaders of the locals, District 23 and the international.
A federal judge held the unions in contempt because the stoppage continued after a court order to end it had been issued. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, holding that "a union may only be held responsible for the authorized or ratified actions of its officers and agents."
Yesterday, the Supreme Court let the decision stand.