To stud or not to stud

Debate over studded winter tires rolls on

Paul Hutchings
Published on November 20, 2012

DEER LAKE — People who like studded tires, like them a lot.

“Be sure not to go out on icy days this winter if you don’t have studs,” said one motorist awaiting his tire installation Monday, which he said will most assuredly include studs.

A representative of a provincial mechanics group said publicly this week the debate between studded versus non-studded tires should be revived, mainly because studs could be causing damage to roads and highways. The use of studded tires seems to vary depending on who you talk to.

Andy Simmons, manager of Simmons’ Tire in Deer Lake, said although he has studded tires on his personal vehicle, this is his last year for them.

“Here, more people seem to be going studless because the tires they buy are just as good without,” he said. “It’s not like it was 20 years ago — the tires are better, softer, formulated to stick to ice.”

Simmons said as far as the debate about damage to the roads, if the roads are being damaged, he doesn’t believe it’s because of the studs, rather, the asphalt itself. If it’s too soft, he said, it could be more susceptible to damage, especially in cold weather.

Although Simmons is switching, he understands why people go with studs.

“If it makes people feel safer, and more confident then how can it hurt?” he asked.

Cory Power of Power’s Tire and Glass in Corner Brook, said about 75 per cent of the winter tires he sells are equipped with studs. For a lot of people, he said, getting studded tires is a mindset.

“People are used to buying them; they have no other frame of mind,” he said. “People who don’t want them don’t like the noise and think they don’t need them with the (milder) winters we’ve been getting lately, they’ll choose an ice radial.”

He cautioned that ice radials are built for just that — ice, and aren’t designed for major amounts of snow.

Stephenville’s OK Tire has so far sold about 60-65 per cent studded tires vesus non-studded. Manager David White said he is not convinced studs damage roads.

“If you look underneath that asphalt you’ll see that the road is pressed down,” said White. “I think it’s the heavy trucks.”

As an example, he said the Trans-Canada Highway was recently paved between Deer Lake and Corner Brook. Workers fixed the tire trenches in the right lane, but there were no such defects in the passing lanes. It’s not a coincidence, he said, that heavy trucks, such as wood trucks, generally only drive in the right lane.

“We’ve been having the same conversation with our customers for the past two weeks,” he said. “Studded tires have been around for years, and I just don’t think they’re causing damage to the roads.”

White said the winters have been excellent in the Stephenville area, which is a factor in what he called a slight decline in sales of studded tires.

Laws governing snow and studded tires vary across the country. Most provinces have no requirements for snow tires, but Quebec recently made it mandatory that all vehicles must have them between Dec. 15 and March 15 according to that province’s Ministry of Transportation’s website.

Ontario laws state studded tires can only be used by motorists in northern Ontario, from Parry Sound and up, and are not permitted in the southern part of the province including the Greater Toronto Area.

Newfoundland and Labrador laws state drivers can only put studded tires on their vehicles after Nov. 1, and they must be replaced with non-studded tires by May 31.