Just saw this gem recently: in a newsletter, the California Tire Dealers Association apparently boasted about supporting a State Bill that will help keep dangerous old tires on the road, and how the new law was a “big f****** deal.” Wow. The new law strikes a blow against safety because repair facilities are now prohibited from refusing to service a tire that is unsafe due to its age.
Apparently California has a “check and inflate” regulation that requires tire service providers to check the air pressure and properly inflate the tires whenever they service a vehicle. The regulation allowed providers to refuse to service a tire if the tire is “unsafe.” In defining the term “unsafe” the regulation included a tire’s age as one of the factors that a provider could use to determine that a tire shouldn’t be serviced.
Anyone who knows even a smidge about tires knows that even if a tire is made with the very best anti-oxidants and anti-ozonate packages, the best skim stock, a thick innerliner with high halobutyl content, and a robust wedge — the rubber in a tire breaks down over time and eventually will cause the tire to fail. Oxygen breaks down the polymer chains, chains lose their elasticity and becomes brittle, cracks in the shoulder, crack propagation over time and boom — tread separation. Basic chemistry.
All of the tire manufacturers know this and will admit it under oath when pressed. I’ve deposed corporate representatives for some of the biggest tire makers who agree with this premise There’s no debate at all on the notion that tires eventually become dangerous with age. Admittedly there is some debate over how long it takes before a tire should be replaced — some say 4 years, most say 6, some 8 — but everyone who understands the chemistry and engineering issues agrees that eventually a tire should be replaced after it hits a certain age.
California’s regulation used to allow a service technician to look a tire, see that it’s oh, say twelve year old, and tell the customer “Pardon me ma’am, I’ve looked at your tire and it’s incredibly old and should be replaced. Most auto makers say after six years you should replace a tire, and this yours is twice that age. So very sorry, but I’m not going to put any air in the tire because I don’t feel right about servicing something that I know is dangerous for you and your family.”
According their newsletter, the Dealers supported the bill which takes out the term “age” from the list of other factors that can be used to determine that a tire is unsafe. My reading is that under this new law, a service tech will be required to check and put air in a tire even if he knows it’s dangerous because of its age. Apparently the dealers are giddy about this change, bragging in their newsletter that it’s a “big f****** deal!”
My favorite part of the newsletter is the naive and almost laughable brag that with the bill’s passage “the trial lawyers will weep.” Silly dealers. Some trial lawyers will shake their heads in disgust, will feel terrible for consumers, and lament the future loss of lives. But weep? No.
Here’s what will happen. The bill will help make sure that old dangerous tires are now going to be serviced and put back on the road instead of being replaced. These tires will fail. And cause horrendous accidents. And maim and kill hundreds of people every year. Which means a continuous pipeline of product liability lawsuits against the tire companies and dealers who sell them and failed to warn consumers. To the extent that the “trial lawyers” were lobbying against this bill (I have no idea about this one way or the other) then they would have been lobbying against their own financial interests.
Weep? The only people who will shed tears will be the families who have to pick up the pieces of human wreckage that needlessly continues to pile up as a result of tire ageing.