What you don't know about scrap tires can hurt you if you're a tire dealer.
That message, relayed last fall at the International Tire Exhibition and Conference (ITEC) in Cleveland by four scrap tire experts, is one that's worth repeating. Dealers who don't keep tabs on who picks up their scrap tires and where they end up could be at the receiving end of some pricey litigation, fines, or worse.
Ohio was something of a test case for scrap tire legislation because of the infamous Kirby Tire Recycling tire pile that burned for months in the early 1990s, the experts said.
The Kirby pile, near Sycamore, Ohio, was 50 miles from Columbus, said Kristen Watt, a partner with the Columbus law firm of Vorys, Slater, Seymour & Pease L.L.P.
Yet we could see the plume of smoke in Columbus, Ms. Watt said. The smoke rose as high as 40 feet. There were terrible air particulate issues.
Tim Landers of Liberty Tire Recycling Inc. said his company had people practically living on the Kirby site for seven years, grinding and removing tires post-fire. Then another company spent another two years cleaning up the water on-site and nearby.
You couldn't imagine a worse scenario for developing a scrap tire law, Mr. Landers said.
It fell to the Ohio Tire & Automotive Association (OTAA) in the early 1990s to deal with the fallout from the Kirby fire on behalf of its members and work with Ohio regulators on a state scrap tire bill.
The Ohio EPA and the Ohio legislature didn't want another Kirby pile, and they also didn't want the West Nile virus, Ms. Watt said. Fortunately, the OTAA developed a good working relationship with both bodies.
In Ohio, we were lucky, she said. The Ohio EPA called people to the table including tire dealers, transporters and recyclers. They brought the stakeholders to the table.
If your state is preparing either to create or revise a scrap tire law, it is crucial to contact legislators and regulators to let them know your concerns, according to Ms. Watt.
The person who best knows your business and how the rules will affect you is you, she said.
It's also important to get competent legal help, she said. We lawyers help draft legislation, and we can see things others generally can't.
Even after a scrap tire rule is in place, tire dealers need to watch and make sure unwelcome changes aren't made, according to Gordon Gough, OTAA executive director.
In 2005, the Ohio legislature attempted to raise the scrap tire fee from $1 to $2 per tire to fund litter control, Mr. Gough said. The OTAA was able to stop that measure, as well as another measure a couple of years later to raise the scrap tire fee to $3.30.
Unfortunately, raising scrap tire fees has become a widespread effort among states, Mr. Landers said.
More and more states want to use the scrap tire fee for their general funds, he said. They want to take that money and put it in places where they've lost tax revenue.
Keeping tabs on your tires
Storage and transportation of tires are veritable hornets' nests of liability for tire dealers who aren't careful, the experts said.
Thirty-six states have regulations governing scrap tire transport, and Liberty Tire operates in most of them, according to Mr. Landers.
Every time we stop to pick up tires, we will hand you a ticket saying how many tires we are taking, what kind they are, and who the driver is, he said.
Similarly, Liberty Tire files reports with the Ohio EPA about how many tires it hauls, where it takes them and what kinds of products it makes from them. Liberty Tire's business plan is to build collection and processing facilities in every region in which it transports tires, Mr. Landers said.
Local law enforcement in Ohio, at the behest of the Ohio EPA, is beginning to crack down on unlicensed tire haulers, he noted.
Franklin County, Ohio, has two sheriff's deputies whose full-time assignment is to track down illegal tire transporters, he said, adding that in one month alone they made five arrests.
Tire dealers need to watch out for con men who try to pass themselves off as haulers from reputable firms such as Liberty, as one did in Michigan, according to Mr. Landers.
If they're paying you for your tires, it's not Liberty Tire, he said. Make sure it's our truck, not one that some guy plastered with a three-by-five sign on the side of his truck.
On-site storage of tires also has become a major headache in states where local or state authorities place severe limits on the amount of space that can be devoted to scrap tires, Mr. Landers said.
He urged dealers to store their scrap tires indoors if at all possible, to prevent unwanted additions to the pile.
The guys who buy tires from you, one of the ways they get rid of what they can't sell is (to put them in) someone's open bins they don't think are being watched, he said. Or a ravine.
Tire Source Inc., a five-store Northern Ohio tire dealership, has exclusive indoor storage of scrap tires now, according to its owner, Tom White.
We can control the scrap tires we have, and people can't add to the pile at night, he said.
For Ohio tire dealers to protect themselves, for instance, they should consult the Ohio EPA website for a list of scrap tire transporters and facilities certified by the state, Mr. White added.