ABU DHABI // Worn and dangerous tyres are still openly on sale in the capital, despite a recent police campaign to fine drivers whose tyres are not roadworthy. In its own investigation, The National confirmed that used, substandard tyres could be purchased easily. In Musaffah, Abu Dhabi's industrial zone, eight out of 10 tyre merchants visited were offering used tyres for sale.
The findings supported a study released recently by the Ministry of Interior that found a "growing industry of second hand tyres" in Musaffah. The police found that lorry drivers, particularly, showed a tendency to buy secondhand tyres, which can cost around a quarter of the price of new ones. "Tougher measures are essential to undermine this growing industry," the ministry said at the time. In the past two weeks, Abu Dhabi Police have confiscated some 2,750 light vehicles with worn-out tyres.
Vehicles not meeting tyre safety standards can be confiscated for a week. Owners face fines of Dh200 (US$55) for small vehicles and Dh500 for heavy vehicles in addition to six black points. Accidents caused by blowouts caused four deaths and seven serious injuries during the first half of this year, according to police. Col Hamad Adil al Shamsi, head of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic department, said the police were stepping up their field inspections on used tyres, awareness programmes and monitoring of tyre shops.
Last year, 13 people died and 16 were severely injured because of blowouts, which accounted for three per cent of the total number of road accidents. "The profit in selling used tyres is greater than that of selling new ones," said Hesham Romayaeh of Al Raly Electronic Wheel Balance. "When someone buys new tyres, they often leave the used ones behind not caring what happens to them or where they go."
Mr Romayaeh pointed to a stack of used tyres outside his store. "That tyre stack there has some tyres in it that can be resold, but since I don't deal in used tyres, they serve no purpose for me. In fact, I pay two dirhams per tyre to have them picked up every Thursday and destroyed, as is required by law." He does not sell second-hand tyres. "Used tyres are unpredictable," he said. "If I sell a used tyre to someone and he suffers a tyre blowout and gets injured or killed, the responsibility could fall on my shoulders."
He said many used tyres remained under the manufacturer's warranty so long as the tread wear limit had not been exceeded. However, the manner in which they are treated before and after being removed from the original vehicle could lead to severe repercussions for those who purchase them next. "If you leave tyres in the sun for a prolonged period of time, they begin to develop microscopic cracks and they become deformed, which diminishes their integrity and roadworthiness," he said. "To the average person, the tyres may look fine and operate for a while but at any moment they can blow out with tragic consequences."
Unlike in Saudi Arabia, where merchants found selling used tyres are fined 10,000 riyals (Dh9,800), there are no clear legal guidelines on the selling of used tyres in the UAE, according to the traffic and licensing department of the Abu Dhabi Police. But the sale of substandard tyres is clearly against the law. "Selling used tyres that are damaged or do not meet the minimum standards of roadworthiness is illegal," said Col Mohammad Mayoof al Ketbi, director of the traffic and licensing department. "Anyone found operating a vehicle with tyres that are in a poor condition faces a fine from the traffic police.
"When someone brings in their vehicle for inspection, the condition of the tyres is one of the factors that determines whether a vehicle passes the inspection or not." Lt Col Ahmad al Shehhi, director of the capital's traffic police, called on authorities to enforce monitoring of importers of tyres and of factories where tyres are repaired and sold again to reduce the amount of poor quality tyres on the market.
He said while Abu Dhabi Municipality's consumer goods inspectors were responsible for monitoring the quality of tyres sold throughout the emirate, the purchaser paid the potentially fatal price should they be substandard. Hassan al Kathiri, an engineer expert in consumer protection quoted by the ministry, advised merchants to pay attention to the way they store their tyres. "Storing tyres outside shops in times of hot weather would decrease their quality and effectiveness," he said.
"A lot of consumers are deceived by recent dates shown on tyres without being aware of the conditions under which those tyres were stored." Mr Romayaek conceded that people with low incomes were naturally drawn to used-tyre merchants. "Many people prefer to buy used tyres as they are cheaper than the new ones," he said. "Those of limited income cannot afford to spend between Dh250 to Dh1,000 for a single new tyre when they can get four used tyres for less than the price of one. Generally, the cheaper a used tyre is the worse condition it will be in."
At one Musaffah store, four used tyres that can fit a Honda Civic or other compact car were stacked neatly in one corner. The salesman there was asking Dh280 for the set of four where a single new tyre of the same size and brand would cost Dh220. "These have been used for only three months," he explained. The tyres he had for sale were worn down, and scuff marks could be seen along the tyre wall indicating that they had probably been in use for much longer. When the diminishing tread was pointed out to the salesman he said, "They will last you a few months. Don't worry, I will fit them on the car for you at no charge."
The National purchased one of the four tyres for Dh50. At the traffic and licensing department's motor vehicle inspection station, Mohammed al Katheri inspected the tyre and said it was not roadworthy. "This tyre, although manufactured less than six months ago, has been through a great deal of abuse and appears to have been involved in an accident," he said. "The tread on it is worn and one side of the tyre is almost entirely rubbed away. It would be very dangerous to place this tyre on a vehicle."
At Al Faraj Tyre Centre, used tyres were not available. "No one but the person who had the tyres before really knows their history," said Eisa Mohammed, the manager. "Many tyres will form bubbles and others will continuously leak air. This leads to dissatisfied customers." Mr Romayaeh said that those who sold used tyres were playing with people's lives and violating the terms of their business licence.
"In Abu Dhabi, the municipality issues commercial licences for tyre stores," he said. "The licence says that the store can only sell new tyres and repair old tyres. "The permit does not allow for the sale of used tyres, but it goes on because no one checks." firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com