KENNEWICK, Wash.—Dealers in the Pacific Northwest once again are fighting legislative proposals to ban or tax studded tires, which lawmakers blame for road damage.
Legislators in both Oregon and Washington have drafted anti-stud bills, though it appears that Washington's proposed tax on studded tires has been tabled for this year, said Richard Nordness, executive director of the Northwest Tire Dealers Association (NWTDA).
Senate Bill 5747 would have called for a $15 per-tire-fee levied at the point of sale and would have become effective July 1, Mr. Nordness said.
However, the association, which presented testimony before a legislative hearing on studs Feb. 14, expects the bill to surface again next year, according to Mr. Nordness.
"We've been back and forth on this issue," he said. "Our association has been fighting this for about 20 years."
Washington and Oregon have a climate where the eastern parts of both states have winters that are as much as 20 degrees colder than the western halves, he explained.
Hence, residents in the east generally favor studded tires for driving on icy, mountainous roads.
Studded tires have the advantage of increased traction on slick, hard-packed ice, but they lose traction on wet or dry pavement, said Mark Cherveny, Goodyear product manager for broad market tires.
Mr. Nordness said no one is able to track how many studs are on Washington's highways during the winter, but almost everyone in the state government is quick to blame studs for potholes.
Legislators have asked the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide data on road damage caused by studded tires, but that data would be based on rough estimates, Mr. Nordness said.
"We do not deny that studded tires do some damage to the roads, but we don't think it's as much as these folks are saying," he said. "It's all in the box of guesstimates, not estimates."
In Oregon, eight different bills currently are circulating in the House and Senate that propose studded tire bans, restricting the speed or the lane usage of vehicles with studded tires, and taxing studded tires.
The Oregon DOT performed a study on studded tires and road damage a few years ago and estimated that the state's roads incur $14 million in damage annually from studded tires, according to state Rep. Alan Brown, who also is a Les Schwab Tires Inc. dealer from Newport, Ore.
Mr. Brown told Tire Business that he thinks the DOT's figures are "grossly exaggerated" because the agency doesn't repair most damaged roads immediately and cracks and potholes could have resulted from years of neglect.
He noted that he has heard during congressional hearings another estimate of studded tires causing $50 million worth of road damage per year.
Mr. Brown, who serves as vice chair of the Senate transportation committee, has joined with other lawmakers from eastern Oregon in opposing a studded tire ban.
"Our standpoint is that it's a safety issue and a customer choice," Mr. Brown said.
"The customer should be able to make the choice...we just feel the safety consideration is almost totally being ignored in these bills," he added.