Tread separation is an extremely dangerous, and extremely common, hazard for vehicles of all types, but particularly those prone to rolling over. In the vast majority of cases, poor tire manufacturing processes are the primary cause of an incident, and information obtained under oath reveals some concerning practices at tire production facilities. However, it can be difficult for victims to bring a lawsuit against a manufacturer, because these companies have worked to shift the blame to consumers in recent years, with some success. But the truth is, consumers are often given a bad product that even tire inspection experts have trouble assessing at times.
It’s important to note first – all major tire manufacturers have issues with their products. While Firestone and Goodyear have made the news for major problems with their tire designs, Continental General, Cooper and Uniroyal-Goodrich brands have also been associated with tire failure.
The problem is with the technology behind steel-belted radial tires, which is exacerbated by negligent manufacturing practices. Steel does not adhere to rubber well, and if the vulcanization (combining additives with the rubber to make it more durable), adhesion and curing processes aren’t executed precisely, it is only a matter of time before the rubber detaches and the tire fails. Tread separation is more likely in hot weather and at high speeds, both of which are common in Houston during the summer.
When the tire fails in this manner, it often engages the tire’s brakes immediately, ripping away control of the vehicle from the driver. Instinctively, drivers attempt to correct the sudden braking action, which often results in a rollover or sudden change in direction. Tire manufacturers have attempted to use this driver instinct as evidence against victims, claiming that it’s their fault for losing control. However, it’s unrealistic to expect drivers to react any differently to such a split-second disaster. In fact, when Ford used a professional driver to test appropriate action following tread separation, their professionals (who were anticipating the failure), couldn’t reliably prevent rollovers. With this information revealed, how could the typical driver fare any better?
In truth, tire manufacturing companies are notorious for their lax safety processes, and workers have testified under oath that they have seen everything from wrenches to chicken bones, to even live shotgun shells cured into tire rubber. These workers testify to grueling conditions where they work 12-hour shifts and are held to quotas that emphasize quantity, not quality. Finally, tire manufacturers have become adept at avoiding scrutiny by outside inspectors, even presenting the same tire over and over to an inspector once it has passed. These are all recklessly irresponsible methods and essentially guarantee that consumers will be the ones to suffer the consequences.
Evidence is often hard to come by following an incident, though, but victims should take high-quality photos of the failed tire as soon as possible. An attorney can use this information as part of a claim against a tire manufacturer, and ensure that the proper party is blamed for a tread separation disaster.