CHOKEPOINTS

Buying tires could become a lot harder

Jan 30, 2024, 6:06 AM | Updated: 10:26 am

tires...

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

It could be a lot harder to find affordable and durable car tires under a bill being considered in the current legislative session.

The bill would give the Washington State Department of Commerce the authority to ban tires it deems inefficient and bad for the climate. It would apply to any replacement tires for cars and light-duty trucks under 10,000 pounds. It would also give the Department of Commerce the ability to fine people anywhere from $100 to $10,000 for violations.

“At the end of the day, we’re facing a climate crisis, and we need to use as many possible tools to get ourselves out of that,” Democrat Representative Chipalo Street told the House Transportation Committee. “This is one way to increase the gas efficiency of some of our vehicles.”

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The bill focuses on the rolling resistance of tires. Heavier and more durable tires have more resistance and less energy efficiency. The heavier the tire, the fewer miles to the gallon.

This bill would ban the sale of tires that fail to meet these efficiency goals.

“You would still be allowed to go to a different state buy tires come back to the state, and you would not be prosecuted,” prime sponsor Rep. Street said. “This is not a way to sort of check the tires that people are using on their cars. It’s literally changing the market dynamics for what tires are available in the state.”

But it would limit your ability to buy whatever tire you choose for your car. It would likely eliminate many cheaper tires, making buying replacements more expensive.

Jennifer Ziegler is with Les Schwab. Her company does not support this bill.

“There’s a difference between making sure consumers have a range of information and actually prohibiting the kinds of tires that are available to them,” she testified. “The bill goes beyond just providing consumers with a range of information to make decisions. It actually gives the Department of Commerce the authority to prohibit the sale of certain types of tires.”

There is also a concern that this bill would make tires less safe.

To achieve the rolling resistance necessary, you would need to reduce tread depth. And that is not a good idea, according to Tracey Norberg of the U.S. Tire Manufacturer’s Association.

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“The easiest way to reduce rolling resistance is to reduce tread depth which will, in turn, reduce wet traction performance,” she testified. “It’ll reduce tire life, and it’ll increase scrap tire generation.”

In addition to making tires less affordable and less durable, there are concerns that many small tire stores would be put out of business.

This bill would not impact snow tires, spare tires, motorcycle tires, off-road recreational vehicles or agriculture vehicles. Many lower rolling resistance tires are available today if you choose to buy them.

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