What were they thinking? Tires get no respect from lawmakers

Bob Ulrich
Posted on April 9, 2015

When it comes to Congressmen and Congresswomen (Congresspeople?), there appears to be no happy medium. They either don't think at all or think too much.

A bit harsh and exaggerated? Sure. But two ripped-from-the-headlines stories show both extremes happen.

Take the trend of states to increase highway speed limits. A recent investigation by the Associated Press calls into question the safety of commercial truck tires as highway speeds across the country increase.

According to the story, there is government evidence that truck tires may not be able to handle the greater speeds given the loads. However, did any of the states (14 states to date) that increased speed limits consult with the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), the organization most prepared to lend assistance to the debate? No.

Dan Zielinski, the RMA's senior vice president of public affairs, says it doesn’t appear the states in question took into effect what all the potential consequences might be.

"Certainly the industry can’t control what states do with speed limits, but it’s also continually important that drivers/operators operate within the limits of their equipment.'

He says that commercial truck tires "have a very positive safety record on our roads today.”

In parts of Texas where there is an 85-mph speed limit, I wouldn't want to be close to one of those speedy rigs, especially rounding the bend.

Following the AP story, it appears Utah is rethinking the higher speed limits, maybe South Dakota, as well. So rational thought, although late, is becoming part of the process.

At the other end of the spectrum is Colorado legislation that was intended to keep traffic moving on the state’s primary route to ski communities in the Rocky Mountains during the snowy season.

The tire bill, as approved by the Colorado’s Senate Transportation Committee, would require light vehicle drivers on the 126-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Morrison and Dotsero to drive a vehicle with:

* tire chains or an approved traction-control device;

* four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with tires that have a tread depth of 4/32 of an inch;

* tires imprinted by a manufacturer with the mountain snowflake symbol, M&S, M+S or M/S symbol with a tread depth of 4/32 of an inch.

The legislators took the teeth out of the bill with their use of the word "or." They over-thought the situation. In essense, as long as a car has tires with an M&S symbol (and a 4/32-inch tread depth), it is good to go -- on roads winding through the Rocky Mountains in snowy conditions!

Would you want to be driving on icy roads in the mountains in a car on M&S tires? I wouldn't. (Admittedly, I am not much of an adventurer.)

The bill, already approved by the Colorado House of Representatives, now awaits a vote by the full Senate. Here's hoping before it passes, the mountain snowflake symbol becomes mandatory.

Related Topics: Associated Press, Dan Zielinski, legislation, RMA, truck tires

Bob Ulrich Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Neal

     | about 4 years ago

    Enjoyed this article which highlights an increasingly troubling trend by legislators and governmental agencies to demand by law that their dreams and/or wishes be fulfilled by the manufacturers of consumer products.

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