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Tire Failure Series: Bald Tires

- February 21, 2014 by Jose Gutierrez, CSP (View all posts by Jose)

Last month, our poll question was related to the number of accidents attributed to tire failure.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this number is roughly 11,000 accidents annually.  With such a small number of accidents involved in this statistic, why highlight it in our blog?  As a business owner, everything can ride on your reputation.  Consider this example.

In an article dated December 10, 2013, the The Register Guard of Eugene, Oregon reported that First Student Inc. which provides busing services to the Junction City School District faced a $3,800 fine from the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration for using bald bus tires. According to the report, the bus traveled 130-150 miles per day transporting children to and from school.  At the time of the inspection, the “tires were so worn that the cords underneath the tire treads were visible” (Woolington, Josephine).  Not only was the company fined by Oregon OSHA, but the story was also published in the local paper and online for their customers and the parents of students in the Junction City School District to see.  The company may be able to fight the small fine from OSHA, but their reputation has taken a more serious hit.

As an employer, would you want to be in that position?  Bald tires will not allow a vehicle to maneuver or brake properly. One time honored method for inspecting your vehicles tire depth is the “Lincoln Penny” test. Simply insert the edge of a penny upside down into the tire tread. If part of the 16th President’s head is covered, the tire still has an acceptable amount of tread. If the top of the President’s head is visible, the tire should be replaced.  Keep in mind that weather conditions in your area may change how you view this result.  Tire tread of 2/32 of an inch may be legally acceptable, but could still result in hydroplaning when driving through deeper water and would not have much traction in snow.

Regular Tire Inspections to identify tire separation pattern, the age of the tire, and to determine tire wear depth will increase your organization’s factor for safety, and will help to further your Risk Management efforts.


“Measuring Tire Tread Depth with a Coin.” Tirerack.com. TireRack.com, N.D. 3 February 2014. < http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tiretech/techpage.jsp?techid=51>

Woolington, Josephine. “School Bus Firm Facing Fine.” Registerguard.com. The Register Guard, 9 December 2013.  Web. 30 Dec 2013. http://www.registerguard.com/rg/news/local/30818771-75/tires-bus-junction-safety-student.html.csp