US Customs and Border Protection Classification and Information about Tires

Transportation is dependent on tires, and just about everyone living in modern civilization has traveled in or, in the case of a motorbike, bicycle or scooter, on some kind of vehicle that uses tires.

But tires have changed a lot since John Dunlop produced the first pneumatic tires for bicycles in 1888 and Andre Michelin produced the first pneumatic rubber tires for cars in 1895. Today about 30 different types of rubber are used to manufacture single tires, and their construction isn’t simple. Further, the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) has identified five different types of tires. These are:

  1. Pneumatic tires that maintain their shape with air pressure. They either have an inner tube filled with air, or are tubeless with a radial ply that resists air through constructed layers of rubber. The latter is the standard on most of today’s automobiles.
  2. Retreads made from used, sometimes slightly damaged pneumatic tires.
  3. Semi-pneumatic tires that are hollow and are not pressurized. Lightweight and puncture proof, this type provides cushioning and is often used for items like wheelbarrows, shopping carts and lawn mowers. Most semi-pneumatic tires are imported into the US as part of an assembly with a component wheel (wheelbarrows etc.)
  4. Solid tires that are manufactured via a molding process using solid rubber that is sometimes combined with plastic compounds. This type is often used for forklift trucks as well as many light industrial vehicles, scooters, carts and lawn mowers.
  5. Cushion tires that are constructed in a similar way to solid tires but have a sealed air space inside instead of pressurized air. Sometimes the inner cavity of the tire is filled with dense foam or even rubber.

But what has this got to do with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)? The answer isn’t simple because it’s got to do largely with imports and money.

The US CBP’s most recently released figures indicate that in 2009 close to 121,700,000 tires worth more than $6.5 billion were imported in the United States. These figures were only for tires used on cars and trucks and they excluded those used for heavy equipment.

CPB Legislation and Tires

Customs legislation relating to tires isn’t new, but it has changed dramatically since the first Tariff Act of 1930. In December 1993 the Customs Modernization Act (officially the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act that is now dubbed the Mod Act) introduced two concepts:

  1. Informed compliance
  2. Shared responsibility

The idea was to maximize voluntary compliance with the US CBP Large | Truck | Tireslaws. But for the trade community to be able to be responsible and comply, they need to be informed. For this reason, in April 2014, the US Department of Homeland Security published a 28-page “informed compliance publication” titled What Every Member of the Trade Community Should Know About: Tires that is based on the CBP’s interpretation of the law. Information in the publication includes:

  • Tire terminology that explains parts of the tire and tread and other terms.
  • An explanation of different types of tires (see above).
  • Sidewall markings, some but not all of which are mandatory.
  • Classification of tires in terms of the HTSUS (see below).
  • The physical characteristics of tires, including size, weight, load capacity, speed rating and tread pattern.
  • Various “carborundum” factors including the expectation of end-users (purchasers), the kind of trade where the tires will be sold, and how these products will be advertised and displayed.

How Tires Are Classified Under The HTSUS

Having said that there are five types of tires, the HTSUS classifies only three of these, and in two categories:

  1. New pneumatic tires made of rubber, and
  2. Used or retreaded pneumatic tires and solid tires that are non-pneumatic.

A further classification lists and reviews new pneumatic tires according to their use on:

  • motor cars, including racing cars and station wagons,
  • trucks and buses,
  • aircraft,
  • motorcycles, and
  • bicycles,

as well as agricultural or forestry vehicles and machines that may or may not have a herring-bone or similar tread.

The publication also discusses the Presidential Proclamation made by President Barack Obama in 2009 that addressed “market disruption of certain passenger vehicle and light truck tires” that were exported to the US from China.

Presidential Proclamation Concerning Tires

Even though President Obama’s proclamation of September 2009 expired in September 2012, together with investigations by the US International Trade Commission it resulted in certain additional payment being required when certain tires are imported. This is a primary reason why it is so important for the trade community to understand how different tires are classified.

Essentially the proclamation imposed additional duties tireson new pneumatic rubber tires imported to the US from China. More specifically, the tires affected were those intended for use on all motorcars excluding racing cars, as well as sport utility vehicles, vans, and “on-the-highway” light trucks. Further, all passenger car tires (including those used on antique passenger cars) are included in this specification, whether radial or non-radial. All “terrain vehicle” tires are excluded. However, tires cannot be identified according to vehicle types.

Additionally, the proclamation states that other classification factors including design, tolerances, markings, and intended use are based on “carborundum” factors rather than importers’ claimed uses.

For more information please contact the US CBP website.