KENNEWICK, Wash.—While Alaska wants motorists to use lighter weight tire studs as a means of reducing pavement wear, Oregon tire dealers—citing problems with such products—are asking lawmakers for permission to use heavier studs, which they consider more reliable. In Oregon over this past winter, it became unlawful to install studs weighing more than 1.5 grams in studded snow tires.
But after a season of unsatisfactory results using aluminum alloy studs of this weight, Oregon dealers want lawmakers to ease that restriction in order to allow use of somewhat heavier steel-jacketed studs.
Richard Nordness, executive director of the Northwest Tire Dealers Association with members in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, said Oregon dealers ``had some real serious problems with the aluminum alloy stud.'' As a result, ``We just don't think the aluminum alloy stud is the way to go.''
According to Mr. Nordness, users complained of the studs coming out of their tires or wearing down prematurely. And because studs seldom come with a manufacturer's warranty guaranteeing their length of service, some Oregon dealers had to shoulder the cost of replacing the studded tires of unhappy customers.
Mr. Nordness believes there are several possible explanations as to why Oregon drivers experienced problems with aluminum alloy studs while motorists in Scandinavian countries did not.
For one thing, he said, few Scandinavian motorists drive the large, 1/2-ton vans and pickup trucks commonly found in Oregon. Driving speed, too, may be a factor. Every Nov. 1, for example, when Finland's motorists are permitted by law to begin using studded tires, the maximum legal speed limit is automatically reduced to 55 mph.
Oregon motorists not only drive faster, but spend more time driving on bare pavement, Mr. Nordness said. And the resulting friction under these conditions causes tire studs to heat up and wear at a faster rate than if they were running at a slower speed over snow- or ice-covered highway surfaces.
Oregon's existing law does not specify what materials can and cannot be used to hold the tungsten-carbide center pin that penetrates the surface of ice and packed snow to provide additional traction. It merely states that tire studs may weigh not more than 1.5 grams—roughly half the weight of the studs used in decades past.
``The problem is that in order to use 1.1 grams in this country, you'd have to stay with the aluminum alloy product,'' said Mr. Nordness. The experience of this past winter in Oregon, he contends, indicates ``the aluminum alloy stud will not work with our particular situation here in the Northwest.''
For this reason, Mr. Nordness said, the association is asking Oregon's legislature to alter the law by establishing a three-tiered structure for maximum weight—namely, 1.5 grams for all studs up to and including size No. 13; 2.5 grams for size No. 15 (there is no size 14); and no more than 3 grams for size No. 17, the largest now used in the U.S.
While the proposed system would allow the larger of these sizes to weigh more than last year, ``They're still lighter weight than the studs we previously used,'' he said. ``And these lighter weight studs will still reduce road wear.''
House bill H3463, introduced at the NTDA's request to incorporate these changes, was passed by the Oregon House May 16 with only one dissenting vote. Mr. Nordness said he's hopeful for its speedy passage in the senate as well.
Besides liberalizing the maximum permissible weight for tire studs, the bill also would authorize Oregon's Highway Department to add so-called ``studless snow tires'' (described as ``high-friction'' snow tires) to the list of approved traction devices the state sometimes requires of vehicles traveling over mountainous terrain and other hazardous areas during times of heavy snowfall.
Until the Oregon situation is resolved, the NTDA is recommending legislators in nearby Washington state hold off taking action to mandate lighter-weight tires studs, according to Mr. Nordness.
``We don't want to see (the same situation) happening in other states,'' said Mr. Nordness.
If the Oregon bill proves to be the answer to studded tire problems, the association likely will recommend a similar measure for Washington, Mr. Nordness said.
Meanwhile, makers of tires and studs need to do some ``serious talking so that they all recommend the same sized stud for a given sized tire,'' he said.