Are specialty trailer tires, designated ST, hard to classify? The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) might say "Yes." The United States Department of Homeland Security would say "No."

You may have heard that some importers are trying to get LT tires made in China into this country without paying the 35% tariff imposed by President Barack Obama on Sept. 26, 2009. In some cases, the radial or bias-ply tires are labeled LT, for light truck, even though they are intended for trailer (utility, agricultural, construction) use.

Example: LT7.50R16 TL, load range G.

Example: LT7.50-16 TL, load range E.

Example: LT235/85R16, load range G.

Example: LT7.00-15 TL load range D.

Could these tires find themselves on vehicles other than trailers? They certainly are built to handle the load-carrying capacity on some light trucks.

Starting in 2002, the RMA began classifying ST tires as light truck tires. Prior to that, ST tires historically were coded as passenger tires.

That lasted four years. Starting in 2006, the RMA removed ST tires from the LT category, and no longer includes them in light truck or passenger tire shipments.

The government probably doesn't care about that, or about ply-ratings.

All it cares about is the LT designation, which, under 4011.20.1005 of the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule, classifies them as light truck tires. And that invokes the 35% tariff.

I hear that some companies are covering up the LT part of the molds, or just changing the designation from LT to ST. The latter sounds justified to me, particularly if the tires are designed for use on specialty trailers. The former would require a classification ruling on the part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a Homeland Security Department agency.

If you are a tire retailer, just be careful that the importer or Chinese manufacturer with whom you deal is not trying to mislead the government. That doesn't usually work out well for those involved.

Author

Bob Ulrich
Bob Ulrich

Editor, Retired

Editor Bob Ulrich has earned a reputation as an industry expert thanks to his insightful, in-depth articles and blogs on the tire industry. Before joining Modern Tire Dealer in 1985, Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University. Also, he graduated from the University of Akron School of Law with a J.D.

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Editor Bob Ulrich has earned a reputation as an industry expert thanks to his insightful, in-depth articles and blogs on the tire industry. Before joining Modern Tire Dealer in 1985, Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University. Also, he graduated from the University of Akron School of Law with a J.D.

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