Unsafe used tire legislation rolls through Texas and Florida

May 21, 2013

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) has been spearheading an effort to have legislation passed in Florida and Texas that defines and bans the sale of unsafe used tires. The Tire Industry Association (TIA) supports the legislation.

But many tire dealers are asking, what is an “unsafe” used tire, and will laws like this end the sale of used tires?

“A used tire is any tire that has been operated on the road, so every tire on the highway or street is ‘used’ in that sense,” says Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training at the Tire Industry Association (TIA).

“There are only three types of tires: new, used and scrap. A new tire is a tire that has never been mounted and operated on a vehicle. A scrap tire is a tire that has an out-of-service condition so it has been removed from service. Every tire that isn’t new or scrap is used.” Based on TIA’s definitions, unsafe used tires fall into the “scrap” category. The reality, argues the RMA, is that unsafe used tires are readily available where used tires are sold, hence the need for legislation. (The unsafe used tires pictured in this story were purchased by the RMA six miles from the Texas Statehouse.)

Last year in Arizona and Florida, similar legislation presented by the RMA was tabled. The RMA did, however, have time to build a case and lay the groundwork for state-level used tire legislation.

This year, similar bills are moving successfully through the legislatures in Texas and Florida. The legislation in both states has the same basic goal — to ban the sale of unsafe used tires.

In Texas, the Senate has been conducting hearings on SB 459 and the House has been considering its companion bill HB 3783. In Florida, HB 485 has been working its way through the House, while SB 1588 has been added to a larger transportation bill, SB 1132, a rule that the RMA calls “must-pass legislation.”

In contrast, the Texas legislation is a standalone bill that has an additional provision attached regulating the transport of scrap tires.

The Texas bill will be enforced under the state’s transportation code. It will be a misdemeanor in Texas to sell an unsafe used tire, which would be enforced by local district attorneys. In Florida the jurisdiction will be under the State Attorney General because it will be enforced as a deceptive trade practice.

“In Florida last year, we had the same sponsor in the Senate that we do this year, Sen. Greg Everest,” says Dan Zielinski, RMA’s senior vice president of public affairs. He says Florida erupted into a political squabble in its senate leadership that froze everything. Florida only has a 60-day legislative session, so time ran out and the bill was tabled.

“We did have the chance to have discussions with legislators and lay the groundwork. Not many bills get passed the first time around.”


Now it’s the second time around, and on April 23, 2013, the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee amended SB 1132, a state transportation bill, with the language to prohibit the sale of unsafe used tires from SB 1588.

The Texas Senate passed SB 459 on April 15 with a 29-1 vote. On April 16, the Texas House Environmental Regulation Committee heard HB 3783. Tracey Norberg, RMA’s senior vice president, testified in favor of the measure.

“Both bills define what a used tire is and describe a number of conditions that most everyone in the industry would agree make a tire unsafe,” says Zielinski. “If it’s worn out, has damage or is improperly repaired, these are all items that can be spotted visually. We tried to make it common sense.”

Zielinski says that RMA’s position is that consumers should be cautious about buying any used tire because the history of the tire is not known.

“This legislation is not designed to ban all used tire sales, it is designed to ban ones that are clearly unsafe,” says Zielinski.

TIA has a similar position. “Our board of directors supports unsafe used tire legislation, and we have not heard from any members who do not agree with our position on the matter,” says Rohlwing. “This legislation is not a concern for the membership simply because the TIA members who sell used tires would not knowingly sell or install a tire with an unsafe condition.”

According to the RMA’s 2011 U.S. Scrap Tire Markets report, 237.8 million light-duty tires entered the scrap tire market in 2011. Out of the 237.8 million tires, RMA estimates that between 20 million and 25 million are used tires.

But one question remains: Are safe used tires OK for retailers to sell?

“If a used tire does not exhibit any out-of-service conditions, then it should be safe for retailers to sell and install provided it is the correct size and type of tire for the vehicle,” says Rohlwing.

What makes a used tire unsafe?

The Texas and Florida legislation penned by the Rubber Manufacturers Association states that a used tire is unsafe if it:

1. has tire tread less than 2/32-inch deep;
2. has chunking, bumps, knots, or bulges evidencing cord, ply or tread separation from the casing or other adjacent material;
3. has exposed tire cords or belting material as a result of damage to the tire;
4. has a repair to the tire in the tread shoulder, sidewall, bead area or belt edge area;
5. has a puncture that has not been sealed or patched on the inside with a cured rubber stem or plug that extends through to the outside surface;
6. does not clearly show the United States Department of Transportation tire identification number located on the sidewall of the tire;
7. is subject to a manufacturer’s safety recall; or
8. has a puncture larger than one-quarter inch.

“The legislation we’re advocating wouldn’t touch a safe used tire because it wouldn’t meet the unsafe conditions — it’s not worn out, it’s not damaged, it hasn’t been improperly repaired,” Zielinski explains. “You look at the tire and you look at the checklist and if it doesn’t have any of the items, it’s a safe tire and you can sell it.

For more on this subject, see:

Most tire dealers don't want used tire legislation