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As the resale and installation of unsafe tires is gaining momentum throughout the U.S., more and more state governors are signing legislation prohibiting the sale of unsafe used tires to motorists.

This growing trend will have a significant impact on the end-of-life tire recycling initiatives within the industry.

In August, Governor Chris Christie signed legislation advocated by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) to prohibit the sale of unsafe used tires that pose a risk to New Jersey motorists. The new law imposes a fine on a business that sells tires that exhibit any one of several unsafe conditions such as worn out tread, visible damage or improper repairs. In addition to USTMA, the national trade association for tire manufacturers, the Tire Industry Association and the New Jersey Gas Station-C-Store-Automotive Association (NJGCA) supported the legislation.

The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) firmly believes businesses should not be permitted to install tires that are worn out, damaged or exhibit other unsafe conditions. USTMA research shows that more than 30 million used tires are available for sale nationally each year. The legislation does not ban all used tire sales. It targets used tires that have specific, well-established, unsafe conditions.

And this legislation appears to have merit. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that worn out tires are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than tires with sufficient tread depth. NHTSA crash statistics indicate that about 200 fatalities and 6,000 injuries are attributed to tire-related causes annually.

“In Colorado and New Jersey, we successfully advocated for legislation to reduce the availability of unsafe used tires,” said Anne Forristall Luke, U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) president and chief executive officer. “We are now working to support similar efforts in several other states to protect drivers from this safety hazard.

While Colorado and New Jersey are the most recent states to embrace this legislation, in June, Texas governor Greg Abbott vetoed a used tire bill that passed the state legislature in May, stating, “Texas does not need to impose new criminal penalties on people who put tires on cars. Nobody wants bad tires on the road, but creating a new crime is not the answer to every problem.”

Texas House Bill 2774, which had won support from both the state House and Senate with overwhelming majorities, was based on the draft legislation long advocated by the USTMA. It would have levied fines for each sale for road use of a used tire defined by the statute as unsafe including a tread depth of less than 1/16 inch; a localized bald spot that exposes the tire ply or cord; regrooving below the original groove depth; evidence of a temporary repair; bumps, bulges or knots indicating tread separation; or worn tread indicators that contact the road in any two adjacent major grooves in the center of the tire.

Also in June, proposed legislation in Ohio, which is supported by the Rubber Manufacturers Association, is designed to stop the installation of unsafe used tires. It was introduced in the Ohio House and Senate prior to the summer recess.

Specifically, the House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee approved HB 42 on May 9 by a vote of 11-4. The bill, which prohibits the installation of unsafe used tires that are worn out, damaged or improperly repaired, is now eligible for a vote by the full House. The proposed legislation states that anyone who violates the law will be guilty of a minor misdemeanor and face a fine of no more than $1,000. A Senate companion bill, SB 68, is awaiting a final hearing in the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee. The Ohio Manufacturers Association plans to work with tire manufacturers to support passage of HB 574 and SB 68 when the House and Senate return this fall.

As more states evaluate and consider legislation prohibiting the sale of unsafe tires, what does that mean for the tire recycling industry?

As Luke explained, safety is the tire manufacturing industry’s top priority. The USTMA advocates for legislation to restrict the availability of used tires that pose a safety risk when in service. Unsafe conditions include tires that are worn-out, have visible damage or improper repairs.

“All tires eventually are removed from service,” Luke said. “USTMA’s goal is to have 100 percent of annually generated scrap tires consumed in end-use markets. The tires targeted by USTMA’s unsafe used tire legislation should be scrapped, not put back into service where they put all motorists at risk.”

It’s important to note that USTMA research shows that more than 30 million used tires are available for sale nationally each year. The legislation being passed in New Jersey, for example, does not ban all used tire sales. It targets used tires that have specific, well-established, unsafe conditions.

As USTMA explained, tires worn to 1/16th of an inch are worn out and are dangerous because they no longer provide sufficient grip on the road, particularly under wet conditions. Tires with damage exposing steel belts or other internal components threaten a tire’s structural integrity. Improperly repaired tires can suffer loss of inflation pressure or have hidden damage that may contribute to tire failure. Tires with bulges indicate possible internal damage that can lead to tread separation.

Unsafe, used tires can be turned into scrap tires – an industry that is seeing remarkable improvement in end use markets as of late.

Furthermore, according to the USTMA, the turnaround in U.S. scrap tire consumption is something to celebrate. In 1990, only 11 percent of annually generated scrap tires were consumed in beneficial end use markets. The rest went into stockpiles. For many stakeholders, including USTMA, this a priority issue. By 2015, end use markets consumed 87.9 percent of scrap tires generated in the U.S. The top market categories for scrap tires are tire derived fuel, ground rubber and civil engineering applications.

The need to expand all economically viable and environmentally sound scrap tire markets remains an imperative.

Tires are a critical safety feature and the only part of the vehicle that touches the road. As Luke explained, USTMA members work continually to improve safety through innovation and technology. This commitment to safety also includes education and advocacy.

“We will continue to work with states to enact common sense legislation that reduces the risk to consumers posed by unsafe used tires,” Luke said. “USTMA favors a free-market, shared responsibility system to manage scrap tires. This means that end-of-life tires should go to the highest value market available in a given state or region. Ultimately, USTMA wants to see all end-of-life tires consumed in viable, environmentally and economically sound, end-use markets. Our ongoing advocacy and education efforts with the tire recycling industry are focused on that outcome.”

Published in the October 2017 Edition of American Recycler News