Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/11/2003 02:13 PM Senate TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 tires. 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 damage. 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 projects. 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.