Lawmaker: Concerns raised in I-Team 8 used tires report deserve hearing

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indiana lawmaker says his colleagues may need to take a closer look at the state’s used tires industry following an I-Team 8 investigation that highlighted lax sales restrictions and safety concerns.

State Rep. Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis) is a member of the Roads and Transportation Committee. Forestal said he thinks lawmakers have a responsibility to “make sure the roadways are safe for Hoosiers.”

“I would hope that we could do more than just focus on potholes and infrastructure repairs. I think when it comes to road safety, it’s our responsibility to look at all aspects of it,” Forestal said in an interview with I-Team 8.

The I-Team 8 report, which aired earlier this month, pointed out that Indiana — like most states — doesn’t restrict the sale of used tires, nor does it offer consumer protections for those who buy them. The report also found while opinions on used tires are mixed, some of the tires being sold may not be safe for the road.

Tires purchased during I-Team 8’s hidden camera investigation were later examined by a certified mechanic and a state police commercial vehicle inspector. Both gave mixed reviews of the tires we bought, expressing concern that at least one of the tires purchased by I-Team 8 was unfit for the road. That particular tire was nine years old and had a tread depth of less than 2/32 of an inch.

“This tire should not be on the road,” said Russ Dillard of Beck Service Center in Indianapolis.  “Personally I think it would be odd that somebody would sell you this to put on the road because this is essentially an unsafe tire.”

Sgt. Ty Utterback, an Indiana State Police commercial vehicle inspector said, “I’m not sure if I would even have that mounted as a spare tire for someone to be honest with you.”

That tire was purchased at Tron’s Tire Shop on 16th Street. A salesman there initially denied selling I-Team 8 the tire, but later admitted to it after a reporter showed him the receipt.

When asked if he thought the tire was safe, the salesman replied, “Yeah you can ride on it if you want to,” he said.

When pressed further about the opinions of others that the tire was unsafe, he said, “Well it’s a used tire though.”

“The most surprising portion I think was the tire that was sold when you folks took it back and the person said that they didn’t sell it or they wouldn’t have sold it — and it turned out they did,” Forestal said.

Since the report aired, many viewers have mentioned how they have relied on used tires for years because they can’t afford new ones. Tonda Lovins used to be among them. She told I-Team 8 that she has bought and relied upon used tires in the past. But after a 2009 crash blamed on a blown used tire claimed the life of her son, Luke, and his girlfriend, Erin Ford, both families swore they would never used them again.

“I really think that all used tires should be inspected by someone that knows about used tires,” Lovins told I-team 8 during the initial report.

Debbie Ford, who was injured in that same crash that killed her daughter, said, “I feel like it’s something that should be addressed,”

Forestal said he has asked his staff members to look at two bills that were floated in the state legislatures of Texas and Florida — both calling for restricting the sale of used tires. Both bills were backed by the Rubber Manufacturers Association, an industry group that represents the nation’s big tire makers. Consumer advocates like Sean Kane, with Safety Research and Strategies, claims the RMA is doing a disservice to consumers by not including an age restriction in the legislation.

Kane argues tire age is critical because — as he claims — the rubber in the tire deteriorates over time.

“Almost every single vehicle manufacturer recommends a replacement of a tire after six years regardless of tread,” Kane told I-Team 8 for our initial report.

Dan Zielinski with the RMA claims age alone is not a safety concern.

“We think including an age-related replacement requirement and calling it an unsafe condition is a mischaracterization and it’s essentially misleading consumers,” he said.

While both the Texas and Florida bills secured committee hearings in 2013, neither ended up becoming law. Other states like Georgia and South Carolina have also toyed with the idea of restricting used tire sales.

Forestal says it’s too early in the process to draft legislation, but he says — at the very least — there should be a “conversation” among lawmakers in a committee hearing.

“The fact that there are no minimum standards and that a tire could be sold at almost any condition I think may, or does have an impact on road safety,” he said. “It’s something that we should maybe take a look at.”

Forestal added he would want to discuss moving forward with the Roads and Transportation Chairman, Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso). Soliday’s spokeswoman said she couldn’t speak to whether used tires would be considered in future committees. A request to speak to Soliday by phone was not returned before news time Tuesday.

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