RICHMOND, Va. (January 28, 2000) — Although blown tires leave rubber fragments on Virginia highways, that problem doesn´t justify state quality and safety standards for retreaded tires, according to a new study.
The study, Need for Standards for Recapped Tires, was conducted at the request of the Virginia General Assembly by an ad hoc committee of 10 police, government, trucking and tire industry officials. Among their conclusions was that not all burst tires are retreads, and of those that are, few could be described as defective.
"There is a misconception that all tire debris problems are attributable to retreading operations, which is not factual," the study stated.
Furthermore, since only 43 of the nation´s 1,244 retreaders — about 3.5 percent — are located in Virginia; since Virginia retreaders make only 4 to 6 percent of U.S. retreads; and since no other state is considering retread standards, creating such a law in Virginia would do little to alleviate rubber on the state´s roads and highways, according to the study.
Instead of state standards, the committee recommended the following:
* Educating the public on proper tire inflation and maintenance;
* Encouraging "key members of the tire industry" to follow strict standards and guidelines; and
* Sending all available information on retreads for large commercial vehicles to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to allow the agency to consider whether to develop national standards for retreads.
The study was delivered to the assembly in late November of 1999, shortly before a Dec. 1 deadline. The assembly, which is in session now, has yet to consider the study and its conclusions, said T. Stephen Goff, a Virginia State Police lieutenant who served on the committee.
Delegate Lionell Spruill Sr., D-Chesapeake, was the state legislator who sponsored the bill mandating the study. Mr. Spruill declined to serve on the committee, and declined to reveal who or what was behind the legislation.
The result was that the committee was made up of people who were dubious about the need to establish state retreading standards.
Nevertheless, the committee members "went into this open-minded," said another member, Steve Akridge, executive director of the Virginia Tire & Automotive Service Dealers Association.
"We still don´t know if it was a disgruntled constituent, a group or Spruill himself," who instigated the bill, Mr. Akridge said. But the committee members did not shirk their duty, he added.
"It was our job to get the technical information," he said. "Certainly the Virginia Department of Transportation did a great deal of work, and we spent a great deal of time and effort gathering information and doing research."
VDOT conducted two tire-gathering surveys during the study to quantify and qualify the problem of rubber on the road. The first sent road crews to gather blown tires from three heavily traveled highways. Over an eight-week period, the crews recovered 127,522 pounds of tire debris, the study said.
The second survey, to determine the cause of tire failures and the identity of failed tires, had crews collect failed tires from I-295, which surrounds Richmond. These tires were then examined by committee members.
Of 27 tires recovered from I-295, 18 were retreads, eight new tires and one unidentifiable, according to the study. Some tires were too damaged to yield clues as to why they failed, but most that had remained more or less intact failed either because of punctures or inadequate air pressure, the panelists determined.
Only one retreaded tire failed because of a defect, VDOT found — an existing puncture in the casing had been overlooked when the tire was retreaded.
The committee also considered previous VDOT retread studies, including a 21/2-year program in the Fredericksburg District to procure retreads for state vehicles. This program, according to the new study, showed a retread failure rate of less than 1 percent.
The retread program expansion will occur on a gradual basis, said Dick Bonistalli, assistant administrator for VDOT´s Equipment Division. The Salem, Richmond and Staunton Districts will introduce the program within the next six to 12 months, issuing requests for bids from retreaders, Mr. Bonistalli said.