The South African Tyre Manufacturing Conference (SATMC), hosted its inaugural Tyre Safety Conference at the Gerotek vehicle testing facility in Pretoria West this week.
The SATMC comprises four local tyre manufacturers: Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear and Sumitomo Rubber Industries.
A number of industry stakeholders, including from government, participated in four modular track demonstrations on the day, each showcasing the potential outcomes of driving with insufficient tyre tread depth.
Participants were driven in identical vehicles in each of the four tests, one of which was fitted with new tyres (with a tread depth of 8mm), and the other with used tyres (with a tread depth of 1.6mm.)
The tests were designed to simulate common road conditions in South Africa, and included braking, cornering and handling in wet conditions, as well as aquaplaning at high speed.
All four tyre safety tests illustrated the dangers of driving vehicles with heavily worn tyres, even though South African legislation permits the use of tyres with just 1mm of tread depth.
Welcoming guests, Riaz Haffajee, CEO of Sumitomo Rubber South Africa and chairman of the SATMC Board, said the four tyre brands had collectively invested around R4-billion into the South African economy in the last three years.
He added that the tyre industry employs over 7 000 people directly, while an additional 4 000 people were indirectly employed across the industry’s value chain.
The SATMC has been around for roughly 20 years, having joined forces to solve a number of issues facing the industry. Haffajee described the tyre industry as both “challenging and fascinating” explaining that it was almost a hybrid industry with FMCG and heavy industry characteristics.
The tyre market in South Africa – the biggest in Africa – is around 14 million strong annually, with around 2.5 million tyres produced going to original equipment manufacturers. Approximately seven million tyres enter the replacement market, with the rest comprising OTR and truck tyres.
While 2012 and 2013 saw dips in overall tyre sales, the industry is up 10% in 2016 year-on-year.
Haffajee said there were around 450 tyre importers of various brands in South Africa, adding that many of these imports originated from the Far East, which, he said, has caused “issues in the market” – the primary one being the insufficient payment of import duties.
“There are many importers who falsely declare the value of their goods when they come in, so they pay lower duties and less VAT, which lowers the price of their goods. This damages the price points in the market for everyone, including other importers and manufacturers who are doing good business,” he said.
Out of the 450 importers, 170 have been found to have under-declared the value of their goods, as per the reference price in the SARS risk engine. The SATMC, along with ITAC, SARS and the Dti, is pushing for a better evaluation method to be developed for tyres entering the country.
“It should be a formula duty method which is used by many other industries. We are going through this process; we think it’s the answer,” he said.
Another concern for SATMC are the levies charged on exported tyres. “It seems inconceivable to us that if we make a tyre in a factory and export it out the country we charge a local homologation fee. We should be promoting exports by not charging an extra fee,” he stated.
Haffajee explained that South Africa has a large market of unregulated, unsafe second-hand tyres that were being resold to the public. “The tyres one sees on the sides of the road come from tyre dealers ready to dispose of them, yet they find their way back into the informal sector or to other retailers, where they are re-grooved or patched with superglue and retailed at minimal cost.”
According to Haffajee, the SATMC had completed a short survey a few years ago, in which it tested 300 of these second-hand tyres nationwide, finding that 53% of them were unfit for the road.
“We need to put in place a regulation that stipulates minimum standards for what can and can’t be sold. Then we can start to decide how that is enforced appropriately.
“The US and EU are not dealing with their own waste. Instead, they ship it out to Africa; many countries from Europe send their second-hand tyres to Africa and that’s why you see all-season and winter tyres, which are not designed for 40-degree heat or the continent’s road conditions,” he said.
Haffajee concluded by saying the tyre industry needed enhanced policy and regulatory harmonisation, better integration of efficiency implementation – including testing infrastructure – increased capacity and reduced turn-around times.
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