Tyres are the main elements of wonderson- wheels. They are the parts that have constant contact with the road. But, besides gauging the air pressure, many people do not know how long it takes before a tyre is unfit for the road. This, according to findings by ISIOMA MADIKE, adds to increase road mishaps, which often results in high fatalities
Shoppers look at expiration dates on things like food and medicine, but not tyres. Most vehicle users often do not think of such things as tyres having expiration dates. Ignoring this, however, could have deadly consequences. Drivers have been seen on roads, swerving to avoid debris, and may even be wondering what they do in the moments after one of the tyres on their cars burst. Igwebuike no longer has to wonder. “It was like a POW,” he said. In December 2021, a man who identifies himself simply as Igwebuike was driving on the Benin-Ore Road in his Honda SUV when the tread separated from his driver’s side rear tyre, according to his narrative. Skidding out of control, the vehicle rolled over. Igwebuike’s 10-year-old cousin, Buchi, was in the car with him at the time.
“They told me he had passed away,” Igwebuike said. Buchi was killed. And Igwebuike was left with questions. “I didn’t run over anything,” he said. “I didn’t hit anybody, but I just did not know what caused the accident.” The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), which investigated the accident, said he bought that tyre new, one year before the accident, at a shop, and then had it inspected by a vulcaniser shortly before the car wrecked. Moulded on the tyre, the FRSC found a code that could lead to the answers Igwebuike was looking for. That code revealed the tyre was manufactured in 2016, meaning, according to the FRSC findings, it sat on a shelf for about six years before Igwebuike purchased it and put it on his car, driving on it the day his cousin died. The Corps did not stop there. They explained the problem many people may have never considered.
“The tyre needed to be put into use to have elasticity, to continue its strength and perform the way it was designed to perform,” said Nseobong Charles Akpabio, Commandant at FRSC Command and Staff College, Udi. But he said some retailers are leaving tyres on the shelf for too long. Most safety experts contacted recommend four years as the age limit for tyres. With this revelation, it is left for drivers to figure out if they are “driving in danger.” The number that revealed the manufacture date is usually on tyre walls. The last four digits are the most important.
They stand for the week and year the tyre was made. For instance, experts told Saturday Telegraph, that the last two digits needed to watch out for in the case of Igwebuike was 06, meaning the tyre he used was manufactured in 2016. This would have helped him to calculate its expiration date. Tyres sitting on the shelf being sold as new and never used, though, could have been manufactured well before that. The family of Buchi is still trying to figure out that dilemma.
“If they’ve got it coded for a specific year that it was manufactured, then, it’s really not new, even though it hasn’t been used,” Igwebuike said Apart from the case of Igwebuike, the unfortunate demise of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, James Ocholi, his wife, son and driver a few years back in a road traffic accident was also as a result of a burst tyre. Ocholi’s incident had, however, helped to raise the consciousness of the populace to the issue of expired tyres and the risk thereof.
Incidentally, many drivers still do not know that tyres can expire. When Saturday Telegraph confronted some drivers at the popular Ogba Motor Park with a simple question bothering on expiry dates of tyres, many of them looked at the reporter like an alien from another planet, an expression that seemed to ask in awe, “do tyres ever expire”? Yet, they have been driving professionally for years. But, the reality, however, is that every tyre has an expiry date after which it is supposed to be replaced, lest it risks a blow-out. The life span of a tyre from the date of manufacture, according to the former director, Inspectorate & Compliance Directorate of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Engr. Bede Obayi, is four years. Obayi told Saturday Telegraph that the date a tyre was manufactured, is written on it as four digits.
The first two digits, according to him, represent the week, while the last two are the year of manufacture. “Please note that the four digits stand alone, not added to any alphabet. Some manufacturers place the asterisk sign (*) before and after the four digits, while others simply encycle it. So, 1616 means, for instance, that the tyre was manufactured on the 16th week (last week of April) in the year 2016. The tyre will, therefore, expire on the 16th week of 2020. “You may, therefore, buy a ‘brand new’ tyre, which has since EXPIRED or just about to expire.
Some middlemen with negative creative ingenuity have a way of deleting the date of manufacture on their tyres. They may also inscribe another date, making it more dangerous for use. “Buying such a tyre is akin to swallowing a pill without an expiry date. I think it’s even worse, because the expired drug can only hurt you, while a burst tyre puts the life of ALL the occupants of the vehicle in jeopardy,” Obayi said. However, most annual reports from the FRSC have indicated that human error contributes to the major causes of road accidents in the country.
Yet, they have observed that tyre bursts are now becoming the major cause of accidents. The FRSC reports often indicate that most motorists do not pay attention to their tyres before driving and most of them are also not keen on expiry dates. “Most dangerous accidents that occurred on our roads were as a result of tyre bursts which resulted in the cars overturning,” Akpabio said.
He advised all motorists to buy authentic tyres from authorised dealers to avoid the possibility of purchasing expired ones. Apart from Akpabio, Corps Public Education Officer, Assistant Corps Marshal, Bisi Kazeem, also said: “Some tyres are expired, some are sub-standard, some are under-inflated, some are over-inflated, and some have been handled wrongly by vulcanisers.” He confirmed that tyre burst is one of the factors responsible for road traffic crashes in recent times.
Kazeem equally advised motorists to always drive below the speed limit. He said that given the conditions of the roads and the possibilities that a few tyres may be sub-standard and fast wearing out, some expired, and some not installed rightly, motorists should drive carefully to help save lives and properties.
Tam Tamunokonbia, a lawyer and former head of the Lagos office of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), has also said that the Council has launched a campaign that it called “Check the BB Date” Campaign. It was first launched by the former Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, on June 30, 2014. “BB” means “Best Before”. What this implies is that consumers should check the labels of the goods or products they buy to see if the product has expired or is close to its expiry date.
Once the “BB” or expiry date on a product label has expired, consumers are advised by the CPC to avoid the product. However, motorists in Lagos State, who spoke to Saturday Telegraph, said they prefer to buy fairly used tyres because of their affordability as against new ones. This was also the declaration of some vehicle owners as they shed light on the two types of tyres which are the fairly used, otherwise known as tokunbo, and the new ones. Findings by this reporter appear to suggest that the patronage of the tokunbo tyres is higher than that of the new ones.
This is attributed to the high cost of the new tyres. Tokunbo tyres, for instance, are said to range between N9,500 and N11,000, while new ones, range between N20, 000 and N28, 000. It could also be up to N50, 000 and more for bigger SUV cars and some trucks.
These variations in the prices prompt vehicle owners, particularly commercial motorists, to prefer tokunbo tyres to new ones. They argue that some tokunbo tyres, if one is lucky enough, could last for more than two years. The new ones, which are obviously more expensive, last longer, depending on the model and the usage.
But, there are those who would never have anything to do with tokunbo tyres, no matter how good they may look. According to a Lagos-based lawyer, Emmanuel Nwaghodoh, “though new tyres are very expensive, we still manage to buy them. It is only when you don’t have money that you settle for less. “I think it’s only when a car owner is in dire need of tyres and he does not have much to purchase new ones, he then goes for the fairly used with the mindset of getting new ones when he is financially buoyant. But, some commercial vehicle drivers prefer the fairly used ones just to cut corners.”
For Osejindu Mordi, “I usually buy tokunbo tyres whenever I am in need of them. I feel safe using them because I usually buy from a particular dealer and he tries as much as possible to give me the best. Most tokunbo tyres last longer than you can imagine, but if I can actually afford the new ones, I will buy them. But right now, I settle for fairly used tyres.” While Tomi Ayodele simply prefers tokunbo tyres because, “they last longer. The expiry dates on tyres are not really genuine, they just put them there. Tokunbo tyres are stronger and more reliable. I will settle for them any day, anytime.”
Worried about the loss of lives and property as a result of the usage of sub-standard tyres in the country, the SON has given dealers of the product, manufacturers and importers, an ultimatum to clean up their stores. A reconstituted task force, the organisation said, has already started the search for and impounds fake and substandard tyres across markets in the country. According to Obayi, the statistics from the FRSC indicates that a high number of people are killed in the country due to incidents from sub-standard tyres. Obayi said: “The statistics is grueling, in 2015, the total annual road traffic crashes was about 8,986 road accidents, killing about 4,910 people, out of which over 722 of those road crashes resulted from burst tyres.
This is what we have been suffering in Nigeria. We are not going to charge for dealing with fake and substandard tyres but charge people for killing innocent citizens.” But giving an update of crashes in recent time, Kazeem, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said that in 2021 the FRSC recorded 5,320 crashes, and 2,471 deaths in the first half of 2021 nationwide.
Against the backdrop of the influx of unregulated second-hand motor tyres, popularly called tokunbo in local parlance, the SON is collaborating with relevant agencies like the FRSC in stemming the ugly trend. “Presently, we are launching an indigenous campaign against sub-standard tyres, and anywhere we see these tyres in circulation, we confiscate them. “The awareness campaign will let the vulcanisers know because even if you are using a brand new tyre, and the vulcaniser puts in pressure higher than what is not recommended because the gauge he is using to measure the pressure is not well calibrated, the danger would still be there.
“Often times, if you measure three vulcanisers’ gauges, you may find differences in them. And so that correction is what is needed for them to know that at each point you ought to know that what you are using is correct. If you are in Ojuelegba and somebody gauges your tyre at 50 and then you take it to another place to check, and they tell you it is 40, you go to another place and they tell you another thing. You are at a very big risk. “Tyre maintenance starts from the users. Are you aware of the rules guiding the vehicle you want to drive? You know that some drivers are not even licensed, when you are trained to become a driver there are many checks one must carry out before one starts driving, and it is not just entering the vehicle to carry the steering on the road. You also need to know and understand the workings of that vehicle.
“If you are taught to drive, when the time comes for you to change your gear if you are driving a manual, you will know, the engine will tell you. If there is also an abnormal behaviour about the car, you should be able to know which component is giving you that sound, not that you will be using a vehicle until it stops you on the road or involve you in an accident, because if you are not sure of the maintenance of your vehicle there are so many things that could happen. “So, these are awareness creations, and the collaboration with government agencies like FRSC, even the Customs. We have had very serious collaborations with the FRSC.
This is one agency of the government that does not play with the issue of substandard. And everything they do, technically, they ensure that the standard of their operations are guaranteed wherever they are needed, that is the kind of collaboration with them.
“We also collaborate with the CPC because they are the foot soldiers that intercede for the consumers. So, what we need is that everybody should support this programme, because, if one is doing badly and you don’t report, how will SON know,” Obayi said. He stressed that the Corps have been good allies in this regard and have remained focused in their enforcement strides with emphasis on the fairly-used tyres. Obayi lamented the abuse of tyres specifications as a recent survey by his men indicated that about 250 different brands of tyres are used in the country.
“Some motorists use tyres meant for agricultural purposes on commercial vehicles, thus widening the possibilities for avoidable road traffic accidents,” he added. He called for a stronger legal framework to address the influx of right-hand steering vehicles into the country, noting that increased collaboration between the SON, the FRSC and the National Automotive Council (NAC) in this direction will enhance compliance. Also speaking on the collaborative efforts of the SON and FRSC, Akpabio said: “In some cases, you stop a vehicle with four different brands of tyres affixed to the same vehicle and we take extra steps to sensitise such drivers on the traffic hazards associated with this practice. But, in most cases, we prosecute them in line with provisions of the traffic laws.
“It is worrisome that motorists patronise these products which have not only expired in some cases but also do not conform to minimum safety standards. It is also imperative to note that new tyres are not ruled out from expiration because some tyres may get close to expiry date before being purchased and used by motorists who are ignorant of this,” he added. Already, SON, according to Obayi, has taken its campaign against fake and sub-standard products to warehouses in Matori Tyre Market, impounding about 20 containers full of sub-standard and expired tyres.
The SON boss explained that Nigeria can no longer be buying products that would gravely endanger the lives of citizens in the country. In like manner, the organisation has impounded more than 10,000 used and sub-standard tyres in Kaduna. The tyres were seized after SON raided shops in the new Panteka Market and along Katsina Road in Kaduna metropolis not too long ago. He said that some shops were also sealed during the raid coordinated by SON, Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), and the FRSC. “All those used and sub-standard tyres may have been smuggled into the country; they didn’t come through normal processes.
This is an exercise that is going on simultaneously across the country.” However, tyre has remained one of the most important components in a vehicle, but unfortunately, it is the least looked after, or taken care of. For some people, so far they do not have flat tyres, everything is just fine. However, one surprising thing about tyres, which most Nigerians do not know about, is the fact that they have expiry dates.
It is so terrible that a larger percentage of Nigerian drivers do not even know that tyres expire, or know how to check if their tyres have expired. This is, therefore, one of the contributors to burst tyres while vehicles are in motion. Vulcanisers that often work on tyres also seem to be ignorant of all these things. For instance, Chinedu, a vulcaniser in Ojuelegba, Lagos, said since most tokunbo tyres were produced to be used in the US and Europe, the manufacturers produced the best. “But whenever it comes to producing tyres for the Nigerian market, they would produce sub-standard tyres for us.
That is why many motorists prefer tokunbo tyres, and it has nothing to do with whether vehicle owners have money or not. “However, I know a client who is wellto- do, who prefers buying tokunbo tyres. But, there is a question we should ask ourselves in this country. Why is it that products manufactured for us in Nigeria do not last, while fairly used products manufactured for clients in the U.S. and Europe last longer?” Chinedu asked.