The sale of defective or part-worn tires remains a thorn in the side of the tire industry around the world. We know that unsafe, unlawful tires cause death and mayhem on our roads, but the sale of part-worns is a global problem that appears to be reluctantly tolerated... that is, until now.
In a surprise development, the Republic of Ireland (which is part of the European Union) recently announced that the country has introduced a new “fixed penalty charge” along with penalty points on drivers’ licenses with immediate effect for anyone caught driving with a defective or severely worn tire. The new regulations came into force in mid-April with the introduction of a new fixed fine of 80 euros plus two penalty points on the driver’s license on immediate payment or a more severe four points following a court conviction.
To say this decision has sent shock waves through the European and UK tire industries would be an understatement, but one that has been applauded and will be watched very closely in the coming months.
Ireland has an appalling road safety record which is backed by the fact that surveys indicate that during the past five years worn tires were the most significant single factor for the cause of almost two thirds of vehicle collisions in Ireland resulting in 71 deaths. At the same time, to further compound the extreme tire safety problem in Europe, a recent local tire tread depth survey carried out in neighboring Northern Ireland (part of the UK), over 3,000 tires were removed from cars and light commercial vans that were found to be below the legal tread depth limit of 1.6 mm.Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the UK-based National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA) was truly alarmed by these shocking findings. They confirm and support the survey carried out in the UK last year conducted by Tyresafe which revealed over 25% of drivers were openly replacing tires with part-worns which in some cases were already illegal.
This very disturbing development supports the common theory in the industry in Europe that poor tire management and maintenance by consumers combined with a distinct lack of enforcement means the problem of part-worn tires appears to be getting even worse.
In my opinion, although this new chapter in the fight against defective or part-worn tires has originated in Ireland and the UK it will inevitably be taken up by most if not all European countries in due course. I recently chatted with NTDA Director Stefan Hay who informed me that this latest ruling in Ireland holds huge pressures for both the European Union countries and the UK. If the current ruling of just 1.6 mm tread depth stays in place as the legal requirement for the foreseeable future then in his opinion we must start pressuring for more effective tire law enforcement measures to come into place as soon as possible.
Hay adds, “In Europe, most vehicle manufacturers are investing a great deal of money to effectively improve vehicle driver and passenger safety. But I believe the majority of this work is being wasted if the tires fitted to vehicles could eventually become unsafe and illegal.”
How these latest revelations on the danger of fitting part-worn or defective tires will affect the sales for the growing number of emerging tire dealers in European countries who appear to be in business only to make a “fast buck or two” without any concern for driver safety is anyone’s guess, but I firmly believe that what has just happened in Ireland in terms of dishing out instant heavy fines for driving with illegal tires might just have a welcoming and long overdue effect on drivers thinking twice about saving a few pounds or euros on significantly inferior tires.
I have no doubt that what has recently happened in the Republic of Ireland will have a ground-breaking effect on the future of the sale of defective tires in Europe in the near future.
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.
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