Although it would be fair to say that the problem of part-worn tire sales has remained at a manageable level for the European industry during the past couple of years, it is still viewed as a serious thorn in the side of the safety image of modern tires — and nowhere more so than in the UK.

Although there is plenty of ongoing publicity in the press warning motorists about the impending dangers of fitting part-won tires to their cars in the misguided attempt at saving money, there is still a steady level of UK tire retailers who are gaining the profit from “money-saving drivers” who are genuinely unaware how dangerous these purchases can be.

Several sources in the industry confirm it is generally considered that around a staggering 98% of part-worn tires currently being sold in the UK are without a doubt completely unsafe as they fail to meet basic safety regulations set down by the industry. It is also interesting to note that this problem is not just confined to passenger cars as many public service vehicles (coaches) are also being fitted with illegal part-worn tires.

In fact, this totally shocking revelation can be backed by a case of a mother – Frances Molloy from Liverpool — who is currently staging an aggressive and steadily successful campaign to ban mounting part-worn tires over 10 years old on cars and coaches. Molloy’s son, Michael, was killed (along with many other people) on a UK motorway while riding in a coach that crashed and was subsequently found to have a part-worn tire fitted that was 19 years old! At the moment Molloy has achieved moderate success in her campaign and the backing of a number of UK MPs (members of the British Parliament).

The next step will be the proposal of a new government bill (policy) which hopefully and in time will lead to a ban on these aging part-worn tires. Needless to say the UK tire industry totally supports this much-needed campaign. And, in fact, the Tyre Recovery Association (TRA) has recently announced a new protocol for its members. It has been carefully crafted in the strongest possible terms to reassure drivers that the part-worn tires they are buying have been subjected to a rigorous safety check to ensure they are completely road worthy when purchased from a responsible tire dealer.

The sale of part-worn tires is a big problem in Europe.

The sale of part-worn tires is a big problem in Europe.

It is hoped that all TRA members will now work within a detailed list of examination standards by qualified operatives who also will be subjected to regular technical inspections. A recent statement by the TRA confirms that serious action needs to be taken within the UK tire market to make sure retailers offering supposedly quality second-hand tires are following the industry’s best practice guidelines.

Will this new campaign work? Who knows? Only time will tell, but personally I am not so sure if it will significantly reduce the sale of illegal part-worn tires. I firmly believe that drivers in the UK, like any other country in the world, view the purchase of replacement tires as a highly distressing activity and, therefore, look to spend as little money as possible.

To be fair there are some genuinely legal part-worn tires to be found in the UK market courtesy of respectable tire dealers. But unfortunately they are few and far between and drivers do not or will not have the patience to search for them. So although I believe this new campaign by the TRA will have an impact, it still will not be enough to completely stop the practice of selling part-worn tires below the legal limit. Which incidentally is not just confined to UK as most, if not all, European countries have the same problem at different levels of intensity.

So the battle goes on, and unless the sale of all part-worns is banned completely, then there will always be dangerous tires on European roads.   ■

John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 24 years. In 2004 he launched his own consulting company, Sapphire Media Services, which caters to business media clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.

To read more European Notebook columns, see:

European and American Wheel Alignment Markets Work Almost in Unison

Taking a New, Determined Route Against Part-Worn Tires

All Aboard the Magic Roundabout of Tire Show Europe!

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