Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/11/2003 02:13 PM Senate TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                     SB 106-FEES FOR TIRES                                                                                  
MR.  RICHARD SCHMITZ,  staff to  Senator Cowdery,  explained that                                                               
the purpose  of SB  106 is to  enact a $10  fee on  every studded                                                               
snow tire to offset the extra  cost of repairing road damage done                                                               
by studded snow tires. He said  studded snow tires do not improve                                                               
traction in  many winter driving  conditions. An  Anchorage study                                                               
showed  that 52  percent of  drivers use  studded snow  tires, of                                                               
which 31 percent  use lightweight studs. Studded  tire use peaked                                                               
in 1996, at  80 percent, and one million passes  of studded tires                                                               
wore road surface one inch.  He showed members photos of pavement                                                               
failure in Anchorage  as the result of studded snow  tire use. He                                                               
said that  for the sake of  safety, road damage must  be repaired                                                               
quickly because rutted roads trap  water, cause hydroplaning, and                                                               
trap  snow,  which turns  to  ice.  Studded tires  increase  fuel                                                               
consumption  and stopping  distance on  wet or  dry pavement  and                                                               
provide a false sense of security after 5,000 miles of use.                                                                     
MR. SCHMITZ said  that studded snow tires do  improve traction in                                                               
many winter  driving scenarios. However, many  non-studded winter                                                               
tires  offer traction  equal  or better  to  studded tires.  Some                                                               
states now ban studded tires. About  $6 million per year is spent                                                               
resurfacing roads  in Anchorage,  which equals about  $20,000 per                                                               
lane, per  mile. SB 106 also  increases the fee for  driving with                                                               
studded tires out of season.                                                                                                    
TAPE 03-8, SIDE B                                                                                                             
CHAIR COWDERY  noted that,  according to  a University  of Alaska                                                               
study, about  50 percent  of drivers use  studded snow  tires. Of                                                               
those  drivers,  about  98  percent drive  on  dry  pavement.  He                                                               
pointed out  that SB 106 definitely  creates a user fee.  He then                                                               
asked Mr. Nottingham to testify.                                                                                                
MR.  DENNIS NOTTINGHAM,  President of  Peratrovich, Nottingham  &                                                               
Drage, Inc.,  told members he is  a long time resident  of Alaska                                                               
and has  watched the roads  deteriorate exponentially  with time.                                                               
He  appreciates   the  committee   taking  up  this   issue.  The                                                               
Department of  Transportation and  Public Facilities  (DOTPF) has                                                               
conducted  numerous studies  to find  alternative ways  to reduce                                                               
road damage,  such as bringing  in expensive  aggregate. However,                                                               
the  fact of  the  matter is  that tire  rubber  and treads  have                                                               
improved to  the point  that he  has not  used studded  tires for                                                               
many years.  The cost  of road  damage from  studded tire  use is                                                               
difficult to estimate but he has  heard a high number of $200 per                                                               
car. He  said that studded  snow tires  do provide for  a shorter                                                               
stopping  distance, but  only up  to 5,000  miles of  use so  the                                                               
safety issue is  not as great as people think.  He said that half                                                               
of the  drivers are causing  all of the  damage to the  roads. He                                                               
believes if  people want to  use studded tires, they  should pay.                                                               
The other  50 percent  who are willing  to pursue  new technology                                                               
would not have to pay and the roads would be better for that.                                                                   
MR. NOTTINGHAM  said that  when registering  a vehicle  every two                                                               
years,  it would  be easy  to get  a license  plate sticker  that                                                               
entitles the  use of  studded tires. The  fine for  using studded                                                               
tires out of  season should be very high because  many people are                                                               
destroying the roads by using studded tires year-round.                                                                         
3:10 p.m.                                                                                                                     
SENATOR OLSON  asked if there  is any advantage to  using studded                                                               
tires after  5,000 miles of use  and whether studs could  be worn                                                               
to the point that they have no adverse effect on the pavement.                                                                  
MR. NOTTINGHAM  said he believes  damage is a function  of speed.                                                               
The studs  still have  an effect  on the pavement  when a  car is                                                               
driven faster.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR OLSON asked Mr. Nottingham if  he favors a ban on studded                                                               
MR. NOTTINGHAM said he believes  in allowing people to make their                                                               
own choice  and to pay for  that choice. He said  when this topic                                                               
came  up in  the  past,  the issue  of  liability  was raised  if                                                               
studded tires are  outlawed and someone has an  accident and sues                                                               
the state.                                                                                                                      
SENATOR  WAGONER said  he is  not concerned  about the  liability                                                               
issue, but he  is concerned about the $5 million  worth of damage                                                               
each year.  The revenue from  a fee  on studded tires  would only                                                               
bring in $2 million, while banning  the use of studded snow tires                                                               
would  save  $3 million.  He  believes  studded snow  tires  give                                                               
people  a  false  sense  of security  and  cause  more  accidents                                                               
because people  drive faster. He suggested  holding more hearings                                                               
on banning the use of studded snow tires.                                                                                       
CHAIR  COWDERY   noted  that  lightweight  studs   still  contain                                                               
tungsten  steel, which  is what  hits the  pavement and  does the                                                               
MR.  JOHN MACKINNON,  Deputy Commissioner  of  DOTPF, provided  a                                                               
visual aid to illustrate the depth  of the ruts caused by studded                                                               
tire use.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR WAGONER asked how many years  it took to do the damage to                                                               
the road in the picture.                                                                                                        
MR. MACKINNON did not know.                                                                                                     
CHAIR COWDERY said he would  like DOTPF to provide information on                                                               
the different  asphalt mixes and  their life spans. He  noted the                                                               
pavement on  some of  the streets in  Anchorage, such  as Ingram,                                                               
has  held up  for seven  years  while other  streets have  needed                                                               
overlays every two years.                                                                                                       
MR. MACKINNON  said one  problem in  Alaska is  the lack  of hard                                                               
aggregate  sources. Recently,  Egan Drive  in Juneau  was repaved                                                               
with  aggregate barged  in  from Haines.  That  aggregate made  a                                                               
tremendous  difference.  Another problem  is  the  desire to  use                                                               
asphalt from  state oil fields.  That asphalt  is not as  hard as                                                               
imported asphalt.  He pointed out  the studded tire fee  would be                                                               
collected at  the source at  the time  the studs are  inserted in                                                               
the  tire, not  when  the  tire is  purchased.  Based on  DOTPF's                                                               
projection, the  surcharge would  raise an  extra $2  million per                                                               
year. Businesses would  be allowed to retain five  percent of the                                                               
surcharge up to $300 per  month to cover expenses. The Department                                                               
of  Revenue  estimates its  cost  to  administer the  program  at                                                               
$50,000 per  year. He  said studies have  shown that  one studded                                                               
tire causes about  $50 worth of damage during the  useful life of                                                               
that  tire. Since  Alaska  spends  over $5  million  per year  to                                                               
repair  ruts  caused by  studded  tires,  he  believes it  is  in                                                               
Alaska's best interest  to explore sources of  hard aggregate and                                                               
transport costs.                                                                                                                
CHAIR COWDERY  pointed out  that five or  six states  have banned                                                               
the use of studded snow tires.                                                                                                  
MR. MACKINNON said  when studded tires were  an effective driving                                                               
aid  when they  were  first  introduced in  the  1950s or  1960s.                                                               
However, a  variety of  other innovations  have resulted  in more                                                               
effective safety  measures, such  as anti-lock brakes,  all wheel                                                               
drive, and better tires. In  addition, DOTPF and the municipality                                                               
maintenance programs  have resulted in  less ice build up  on the                                                               
roads. Studies  have shown that  95 percent of the  time, studded                                                               
tires are  hitting bare pavement.  He asked committee  members to                                                               
support SB 106.                                                                                                                 
CHAIR  COWDERY noted  he  spoke to  trucking  companies that  use                                                               
chains rather  than studs on  trucks; they sipe (ph)  their tires                                                               
to increase traction on ice. He  asked if DOTPF uses studded snow                                                               
tires on its vehicles.                                                                                                          
MR. MACKINNON said no.                                                                                                          
SENATOR  WAGONER said  the troopers  use studded  snow tires.  He                                                               
then pointed  out that at $10  per tire, the cost  of damage that                                                               
is not  recovered would be  $160 per  vehicle if the  vehicle has                                                               
four studded  tires. He  asked the cost  of shipping  asphalt and                                                               
aggregate into the state versus using local products.                                                                           
MR. MACKINNON said it would depend  on the location of the paving                                                               
project. It  is not  difficult to  ship aggregate  into Southeast                                                               
Alaska  from the  Puget Sound  area. Asphalt  in the  Interior is                                                               
from that area.  He said DOTPF could look at  the cost benefit of                                                               
using different asphalt mixes and part aggregate.                                                                               
CHAIR COWDERY presented  a committee substitute (CS)  for SB 106,                                                               
version H.                                                                                                                      
SENATOR  WAGONER  moved  to  adopt version  H  as  the  committee                                                               
substitute. Without objection, the motion carried.                                                                              
MR. MACKINNON  explained the  difference between  the CS  and the                                                               
original  bill is  a  fine increase  for  violating the  seasonal                                                               
restriction on studded tires.                                                                                                   
SENATOR OLSON  asked if the  fee would  be collected at  the time                                                               
the studs are inserted into the tire.                                                                                           
MR. MACKINNON said that is correct.                                                                                             
SENATOR OLSON said  companies would have an  inventory of studded                                                               
tires that they have paid the fee for.                                                                                          
MR.  MACKINNON  explained the  tires  are  not sold  with  studs;                                                               
buyers opt to have studs inserted.                                                                                              
SENATOR  OLSON  asked  how  to  guarantee  these  fees  would  be                                                               
designated  for  road  maintenance  as  opposed  to  other  DOTPF                                                               
CHAIR COWDERY said  the money would go into the  general fund and                                                               
the legislature would appropriate it.                                                                                           
MR.  LARRY  PERSILY, Deputy  Commissioner  of  the Department  of                                                               
Revenue, told members  the $10 per tire fee would  show up on the                                                               
invoice and  once a  month that  money would  be remitted  to the                                                               
state. Retailers  would be allowed  to keep five percent,  not to                                                               
exceed $300 per month, for  collecting and remitting the fee. The                                                               
fee  only  applies  to  retail  sales  of  new  tires  for  motor                                                               
vehicles. He  added the  CS exempts tires  sold to  local, state,                                                               
and federal agencies.                                                                                                           
SENATOR  WAGONER said  since there  is no  way to  dedicate those                                                               
funds, the  department would have  to provide an estimate  of the                                                               
amount received to the Finance Committee.                                                                                       
MR.  PERSILY  said that  is  correct  and  although there  is  no                                                               
legally binding  dedication of funds,  there is the  moral pledge                                                               
of  the   legislature  to  appropriate  the   funds  for  highway                                                               
maintenance. He suggested two small changes to the CS:                                                                          
     On line 8, page 1, delete the words "or other transfer for                                                                 
     consideration" to clarify that the state is not looking to                                                                 
     tax garage sale tires.                                                                                                     
     On line 13, page 2, insert "motor vehicle" in front of                                                                     
     "tire" to clarify that this legislation does not apply to                                                                  
     bicycle tires.                                                                                                             
CHAIR COWDERY  said he believes  that tire companies will  have a                                                               
run on  non-studded tires next  year. He  said this fee  is small                                                               
compared to the extra cost of studs and tire changes.                                                                           
SENATOR WAGONER moved  to adopt the proposed changes  and to move                                                               
CSSB 106(TRA) to the next committee of referral.                                                                                
CHAIR  COWDERY asked  for unanimous  consent. Without  objection,                                                               
CSSB 106(TRA) moved from committee.                                                                                             

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