It would be true to say that Europe has something of a tire crisis at the moment. No, it has nothing to do with inexpensive Chinese imports or, in fact, new tire prices. The main problem right now is trying to ensure the tires on drivers’ vehicles are actually fit for purpose.
The fact is, eventually tires wear out and when a customer is forced to buy new ones, the tire dealer who fits those new tires is legally obliged to dispose of the old tires in a responsible and safe manner. In the majority of cases, the millions of scrap tires that need disposing of each year are taken to a large tire granulating plant at various locations around Europe where they are transformed into high-end quality rubber granulate that is used for a range of applications including sports surfaces and children’s playgrounds.
However, it is very disturbing to discover that still over 1.5 million of these scrap tires find their way back into the part-worn tire trade that continues to blossom on the Continent despite constant safety warnings.
I have spoken to a number of leading people in the market who all agree that there remains a great temptation by tire collection agencies to sell worn tires to boost revenue. At the same time, it seems the industry is looking to fight back. A few tire safety associations are beginning to launch their own unique collection schemes aimed at ensuring the tires are scrapped and not returned into the buyers’ markets as part-worn tires.I have been looking a little closer into these pioneering schemes which appear to provide an audited assurance that no tires collected from dealers who agree to join the scheme are sold back to part-worn tire dealers. This latest development in the ongoing European battle with part-worn tire dealers joins other safety campaign groups including Tyresafe and the Tyre Industry Federation (TIF) in trying to remove scrap tires being offered for sale as a cheap source of purchase for families with limited incomes.
One influential person in the trade (who wished to remain anonymous) says, “Whilst second-hand clothes ooze retro charm to some people, part-worn tires certainly do not and can only be viewed as a cut-price and dangerous source of income for unscrupulous tire dealers.” I have also become aware that several leading European automotive magazines have decided to support this much needed tire safety campaign.
A recent article in Auto Express reported that despite strict legal regulations on tread depth, acceptable repairs and the stipulation that labelling and traceability repairs to rubber must identify the name and registration number of the garage that carried out the work, several recent surveys on random tire batches revealed none of the tires offered such important information. Also, all part-worns offered for sale should be ink-stamped as part-worn on the sidewall, but again this just isn’t happening in most cases. This means that in almost every case where an innocent driver buys these tires they have no way of knowing if the tires they have bought are safe, which is extremely worrying and distressing.At the moment the European euro is continuing to face an uncertain future, which means more and more ordinary family drivers across Europe are looking to reduce their daily expenditure so they are naturally tempted to take a chance on a set of part-worn tires in the future (to save money). The sheer grand scale of scrap tires available at any one time is perfectly illustrated by the shot of the world’s largest used tire dump in Kuwait in the Middle East. So regrettably there is plenty of opportunity for part-worn tire dealers with no concern for safely to grow their businesses.
Although there is a lot of good work being carried out to rectify the current situation, I believe that at least for the moment part-worn tires will remain a monkey on the back of European tire safety.
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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