While large portions of the country are in the grips of one of the snowiest and coldest winters in a very long time, the Quebec government has quietly begun planning on moving the mandatory winter tire installation date to November 15th.
While this reads like a good idea on paper, the fact of the matter is that this action will do more harm than good. And this applies to all Provinces that may consider following in Quebec’s footsteps and establish a winter tire law.
The main reason behind such a push comes from the fact that most motorists decide on getting their tires done based on a date, not exterior ambient temperatures, as they should. Most of you have probably read somewhere that come 7 degrees Celsius, “summer” tires begin to lose their elasticity or, in other words, their ability to properly grip the road.
Thing is that Quebec already had a 90%+ winter tire adoption rate before the law came into effect and it worked out well enough. Consumers would call their local tire shop, make an appointment and get the job done. If, at the set time and date, there was snow on the ground, they’d make their way to the garage carefully. The garages were free to schedule customers, and stock up on tires in the wake of coming demand. This “leisurely” way of doing business changed dramatically when the law with a date was imposed.
Suddenly, the shops had fewer business weeks, days and hours to meet the demand. The need to abide by the constraints forced them to hire more workers, extend business hours and to a certain extent, lose business. I’ve been to a tire shop a few days after the December 15th deadline and I could hear the paint drying. That’s not good for a business.
But that’s only one issue. The other lies on the shoulders of the tire manufacturers and suppliers that also need to meet the explosive last-minute demand for more winter tires. Although there are millions of cars on the road in Quebec, the Province represents but a blip on the world market radar. In many instances, tire makers can’t meet the demand for tires, or don’t bother diverting more tires specifically for the Province. In these circumstances, many consumers are forced to purchase lesser quality products or even stretch their existing worn winter rubber until such a time as new tires finally become available.
The bottom line is that moving the date earlier will not improve safety on Quebec roads. If anything, it’ll force consumers to drive longer on worn out tires, buy new winter tires and run them all year or purchase lesser tires. In some rare cases, this revision to the law will prevent some consumers from driving their cars legally because of the unavailability of particular winter tire sizes.
The claim that moving the date to November 15th will make our roads safer will be offset, or worse, by poor decisions, lower quality or overly worn winter tires and a sharp increase in work related accidents in garages. This latter scenario has already been observed in the industry and certainly will not get any better if shops have four fewer working weeks to get the job done.
We think that the December 15th deadline should be left well-enough alone. And for other Provinces thinking about introducing such a law, please take note of Quebec’s experience and avoid making the same mistakes. Everyone will be safer for it.