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RMA supports ban of 'unsafe' used tires

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A Texas Senate committee is considering a bill that prohibits the sale of unsafe used tires "that are readily available and pose a significant risk to motorists."

SB 459, introduced by Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D), is supported by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), the national trade organization for tire manufacturers. RMA, which testified at the March 26, 2013, hearing, believes businesses should not be permitted to offer tires that are worn out, damaged or exhibit other unsafe conditions.

“This legislation will help improve highway and motorist safety in Texas by addressing the sale of unsafe used tires,” says Dan Zielinski, the RMA's senior vice president.  “Safety is the highest priority for the tire industry and we support this legislation.”

To demonstrate the problem and availability of unsafe used tires, RMA purchased several used tires from used tire stores in Texas. Each tire exhibited one or more conditions that are clearly unsafe: worn out, visible damage to the tread or other portions of a tire; or improperly repaired.

“Unsafe used tires are readily available for sale across the nation,” says Zielinski. “Any used tire is a risky proposition since it’s impossible to know the service history of a tire used by someone else. But some businesses are compounding that problem by selling tires that anyone in the tire business should know are dangerous.”

Tires worn to 2/32nds of an inch are considered bald and are dangerous because they no longer provide sufficient grip on the road, particularly under wet conditions. Tires with damaged or exposed steel belts or other damaged internal components threaten a tire’s structural integrity.

Improperly repaired tires can suffer loss of inflation pressure or have hidden damage that may risk tire failure.

“We are working to educate policymakers and consumers about the dangers of unsafe used tires and will advocate state laws to prohibit the sale of used tires with conditions that pose a significant motorist safety risk,” says Zielinski. “Consumers may think used tires are a bargain but saving a few dollars isn’t worth the risk if your choice includes a worn out or damaged tire.”

Here is what the RMA said in its testimony before the Texas Senate Transportion Committee on March 27 during the public hearing for SB 459.

"Safety is the tire industry’s highest priority. Tires are among the most highly engineered safety components on vehicles and are directly involved in all aspects of a vehicle’s movement -- acceleration, deceleration, braking, cornering, turning and handling. While they may still look very similar to tires made decades ago, numerous technological and engineering changes are made constantly to enhance tire performance.

"Additionally, tires sold in the United States comply with the strictest government safety standards in the world.

"Motorists are at significant risk when their tires are not in good working condition. That is why RMA members’ concern with safety extends beyond the factory door to help consumers understand how to maintain their tires.

"RMA members fund and support a national consumer education program, Be Tire Smart -- Play Your PART, to educate motorists about proper tire care. This effort includes sponsoring National Tire Safety Week each June, which includes vigorous media outreach and distribution of tire care materials to more than 21,000 tire dealer, auto dealer, auto repair, AAA clubs and other outlets.

"RMA also makes an effort to keep tire service professionals educated about important care and service issues. Last year RMA distributed tire care and service information to more than 220,000 tire and automotive service and repair locations nationwide. This information included a number of industry standards on several tire service topics. These materials also are available on our web site.

"We estimate that 20-25 million used tires enter the market each year in the U.S. What we don’t know is how many are unsafe. But it doesn’t take long to find them. Our members purchased several unsafe used tires from shops in the Austin area in just a few trips. These tires are readily available.

"Consumers always should approach a used tire purchase decision with caution.  No consumer can possibly know the storage, maintenance and service history of any tire.  Tires driven under inflated over time; suffered impact damage by hitting a pothole or curb; exhibit uneven tread wear due to poor vehicle alignment or have been repaired improperly can increase the risk of tire failure.

"SB 459 would prohibit the sale of unsafe used tires that demonstrate clear hazards such as worn out, damaged or improperly repaired, among others -- conditions that we know will increase the risk of tire failure. Riding on damaged, worn-out tires may be further exacerbated in Texas, where exposure to high ambient temperatures puts further strain on tires. The simple guidelines in SB 459 for tire sellers to identify unsafe used tires will help protect consumers. Furthermore, the conditions are very similar to those that already are used to identify unsafe tires in Texas’ vehicle safety inspections.

"Used tires are not subject to any regulations. All that SB 459 does is attempt to weed out those tires that every tire professional can and should know poses an unreasonable risk to motorist safety. Simply put, if you’re in the business of selling tires, you should know not to sell tires that match the conditions listed in this legislation.

"Requiring used tire sellers to be appropriately accountable when they return used tires back to road service is a simple, reasonable attempt to protect consumers.  In the tire buying process, many consumers rely upon the advice and guidance of a tire dealer. All consumers want and expect that the tires they buy are safe. Simply adhering to a buyer-beware approach may put too many consumers at risk of purchasing tires that they believe will be safe enough to use but in reality pose a significant risk.

"RMA members, like any business, face regulatory and legislative requirements on many facets of their operations. Our members do not advocate new regulations without careful consideration and an understanding of what burdens may be placed on sellers of used tires. The approach in SB 459 lists a number of conditions that we believe that those in the tire business can and should follow. No tire business should rely on the sale of tires displaying the conditions listed in this legislation."

RMA published an information bulletin on used tires several years ago. The group is currently advocating unsafe used tire legislation in Florida as well.

What do you think? Do you support the bill? Is there such a thing as a safe used tire? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment!

And to find out what Modern Tire Dealer Editor Bob Ulrich thinks about the issue, read "Used tires get abused in Texas state legislature."

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