AKRON (Feb. 27, 2012) — Is a properly cared-for tire any more unsafe if it is 10 years old than if it is six years old? What about a well-cared for tire that's three years old vs. one that is newly made?
That's really the issue in the latest effort by a state legislature, this time in Maryland, to force tire manufacturers and distributors to affix a label on each tire they sell, giving the month and year of manufacture.
What makes this type of proposed legislation so vexing is that there is no agreement within the tire and auto industries on when a tire should be pulled from use. Some auto companies say six years, some tire companies say 10 years, and still others make no tire-age recommendations at all.
It's no wonder legislators periodically come up with proposals to address this issue, especially after someone in their district, for example, has an accident that supposedly involved an older tire—even if that tire wasn't properly maintained. Let's face it: Tires are an easy target.
Until tire companies, auto makers and the tire industry as a whole come to some agreement on when, or even if, there is an age limit on tires, bills like the one in Maryland will continue to spring up. Then the tire industry will do whatever it can to make sure it doesn't get passed, especially because it is an issue that doesn't seem to be a problem.
The latest bill tackling tire age limits was introduced in the Mary¬land House a few weeks ago by Del¬egate Benjamin F. Kramer, D-19th District, who maintains that tires more than six-years old pose a safety hazard.
Speaking at a recent hearing on Maryland House Bill 729, Mr. Kramer expressed skepticism about testimony presented by tire industry representatives and played down the significance of studies performed by the Rubber Manufacturers Association that indicated the claims rate for tires does not increase with age.
The delegate chose, instead, to focus on internal studies undertaken by Ford Motor Co. that led the auto maker to recommend tire replacement after six years.
What's at stake is more than simply slapping a label on a tire.
Even if there is no difference in the safety of a newer tire vs. an older one, most people, if given the chance, will opt for the newest model. That will prove to be an inventory nightmare for the manufacturers and distributors of tires.
Tire dealers, based on the proposed legislation, also would be required to provide consumers with the date-of-manufacture information on a receipt or invoice as well as written disclosures about the dangers of tire aging. They would have to give a copy to consumers and keep the originals for three years. Fines would be levied for those failing to follow the letter of the law.
All of this is over an issue of which there is no industry consensus, and where the data show that tire aging is a minimal public safety issue, at worst.
If the tire industry wants to quash future proposed legislation on this subject, it must decide whether there is an age limit for tires and if so, what that limit is or isn't.
Hopefully, that would end the debate once and for all.
This editorial appears in the Feb. 27 print edition of Tire Business.