RICHMOND, Va.—The Virginia General Assembly has ordered a study on whether the state should issue safety and quality standards for retreaded vehicle tires. A 10-member committee—which includes representatives of Virginia tire dealers, retreaders, truckers and transportation officials—met initially May 4 and had scheduled another meeting for July 15.
While the committee members were expected to have a better handle on their direction and goals after the July 15 meeting, they are puzzled as to why the study was mandated, or who wanted it done.
``We don't know why this came about in Virginia,'' said Steve Akridge, executive director of the Virginia Tire Dealers Association and a member of the committee.
Lionel Spruill, D-Chesapeake, the assembly delegate who sponsored the bill mandating the study, has declined to serve on the committee, noted Terry Westhafer, president of Central Tire Corp. in Verona, Va.
Mr. Westhafer, a past-president of the International Tire and Rubber Association, when it was still the American Retreaders' Association, said he understood that a constituent or constituents of Mr. Spruill delivered the bill to him. When committee members asked him to identify the bill's supporters, he refused.
``Virtually everyone is represented on this committee, except for anyone who thinks a statewide standard on recapped tires is necessary,'' Mr. Akridge said. ``If there is a strong voice out there who thinks this is a good idea, we don't know of it.''
``This bill went through the legislature because nobody was against it,'' Mr. Westhafer added. ``We're being somewhat cautious here. We don't want to be accused of whitewashing, but nobody for the other side has shown up to voice their concerns.''
However, Mr. Westhafer mentioned a ``negative'' news story about retreaded truck tires on a Roanoke, Va., television station as a possible inspiration for the bill.
Mr. Spruill did not return phone calls to his office and his home.
Besides Messrs. Akridge and Westhafer, the committee includes representatives from the Virginia Trucking Association, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
At the May 4 meeting, all the committee members were asked to prepare a report on different aspects of the issue, including what the retreading and trucking industries are doing about the problem of truck tire failures and the massive, often hazardous debris they leave on the road.
Dick Bonistalli, assistant administrator of the VDOT's Equipment Division, is preparing a presentation about a pilot program in the department's Fredericksburg district to maximize procurement of retreaded tires in certain applications, mostly off-road.
The program began in 1996, with Goodyear—the successful bidder—providing Fredericksburg with both new and retreaded tires. Mr. Bonistalli characterized the results of the program as ``excellent,'' with ``a very minimal number of failures'' among the retreads.
The VDOT's eventual plan is to introduce the program into all nine of its districts, with each district administrating its own tire procurement and choosing its own suppliers.
While Mr. Bonistalli was guarded about what his final recommendations might be to the committee, he did add: ``I will say the Equipment Division supports the use of recapped tires.''
Mr. Westhafer said the committee hoped to finish gathering data by September, in order to complete work on the study by the Dec. 1 deadline set by the General Assembly.