Death on wheels: Illegal retreads

THERE is danger in illegal retreads. Not infrequently these retreads come loose from the tyres they are glued to, putting the trucks and other vehicles nearby in danger.

In fact, they cause accidents aplenty. Little wonder they are called “road alligators” or “road gators” in the United States for the danger they pose to road users.

The Works Ministry data point to 30 accidents being caused daily by illegal retread tyres blowing up, sending “road gators” across lanes. And most of them are from heavy vehicles, owners of which find it cheaper to use illegal retreads.

For them, profits come before people.

Industry sources say illegal retreads are way cheaper than legal retreads that are sold at RM300 a piece. Some illegal retreads are sold as low as RM150.

Recently, another challenge has come the way of our retread manufacturers.

With anti-dumping laws of the US and Europe taking a deep bite on China, our giant Asian neighbour has begun exporting cheap tyres to Malaysia.

Tyre Retreading Manufacturers Association of Malaysia (TRMAM) puts the number of the cheap Chinese tyres being dumped in Malaysia at 1.8 million pieces. They are what he calls one-use tyres, not even fit for retreading.

The legal retread tyre industry is an important business for Malaysia. The 50 Sirim-certified retread factories bring in a revenue of RM200 million per annum.

While only about 600,000 new commercial tyres are consumed annually in the country, the number is a whopping 1.1 million pieces for retreads. And the retread manufacturers make a significant contribution to our natural rubber industry too.

Retread manufacturers consume about 16,500 tonnes of natural rubber annually, all from some 400,000 rubber smallholders in the country.

Experts say retreads aren’t the problem; illegal retreads are. Retreads have been around almost as early as the pneumatic tyres when the latter made their appearance in the 1900s.

Given the road condition then, the tyres could last only 1,000 km or less. Retreads were invented to make tyres last longer and go further.

A good retread can go an extra 80,000km to 100,000km. The retread industry in the US and Europe has shown the world that retread tyres can be safe if it follows the industry’s rigorous process.

There, the authorities mean business when it comes to enforcement. TRMAM finds enforcement in Malaysia wanting. We come to the same conclusion too.

There are 80 retread factories in Malaysia and of these, 30 are operating illegally. A frequent lament of TRMAM members is the laxity with which the illegal operators are treated by the authorities.

Reports of sealed factories continuing to manufacture retreads are not infrequent. Overloaded lorries fitted with illegal retreads are not uncommon either.

Just look at the “road gators” left on our highways. It is time for the authorities to really get tough.

They must not allow illegal retreads to become death on wheels.