March 9, 2007 in Idaho

Bill eases rules if tires retract studs

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

BOISE – Studded tires could be legal year-round in Idaho and Washington – if the studs retract at the push of a remote-control button.

“It really is a good piece of technology, and there’s no reason not to give it a try,” said Idaho Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls. Hammond is sponsoring SB 1133, which would legalize retractable-stud tires in Idaho for year-round use. Similar legislation is pending in Washington, Oregon and Montana this year.

The only catch: No one is actually making and selling such tires yet. But Q Tires Inc. of Greenville, S.C., is hoping to have them out on the market next winter.

“They want to start their rollout in the Northwest – it’s a logical place for a tire of that type,” said Jerry Deckard, Idaho lobbyist for Q Tires. But first, he said, “We need to get the laws changed in the Northwest.”

Deckard compared the concept to gadgets from “Q,” the technical whiz of James Bond movie fame.

Studded tires are legal in Idaho from Oct. 15 to April 15. SB 1133 would make them legal year-round if the studs are fully retractable. It would also exempt retractable-stud tires from recent laws requiring tire studs to be lightweight.

Similar legislation was introduced in Washington, where studs now are legal November through March each year.

Q Tires says on its Web site that its new Celsius model tires “truly are the alternative to studded tires and chains, which cause untold damage to roads.”

The retractable-stud tires feature an air bladder that forces the studs out when needed, and lets them retract back into the tire when not needed. The studs can be activated and retracted about 50 times before the bladder needs to be refilled with air.

The company calls the retractable-stud tire “the long-awaited solution to challenging weather conditions.”

Hammond said, “Studs are one thing that create a great deal of wear and tear on our roads.” That’s because they’re always grinding against the pavement when there’s no snow and ice on the road. “You need them intermittently,” the Post Falls senator said. “This way, you can retract them and only deploy them when you really need ‘em.”

Hammond was assigned to carry the bill by Senate Transportation Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell, but he’s been enthusiastic about it. He displayed a model of a section of the tire to the full Senate last week, and senators passed the bill unanimously. The House Transportation Committee had the same reaction on Tuesday.

Deckard said Q Tires has had its retractable-stud tires tested by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and they’ve passed muster. “They’ll have tires in the marketplace for the next winter season,” he said.

He noted that the legislation legalizes any fully retractable studs, not just those made by Q Tires. “It could be anybody who has this technology,” Deckard said.

Said Hammond, “We’re not really endorsing a product – all we’re doing is allowing them to be used on our highways.”

The Idaho bill moves next to the full House, and if it passes there, to the governor’s desk.

Montana’s bill, like Idaho’s, has unanimously passed the Senate and is now pending in the House. Oregon’s is pending in the House.

Washington’s bill was amended in the Senate Transportation Committee to turn the whole issue over to the state Department of Transportation and the State Patrol.

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