It seems to be that time of year again. As the snow melts and the days become longer, it is time to start preparing for spring. That may mean doing a thorough cleaning of the house or breaking out the summer toys that have been in hibernation all winter long. For rural Montana ranches and farms, it means a new calving and planting season. For many of us Montanans it means that we need to switch out our snow tires.
Studded Tires in Rural Montana
In rural Montana, snow tires are a necessity because of constant hazardous road conditions. Snow tires in Montana are often studded tires. These are pneumatic tires (common tires) that have studs embedded in the tread. These studs cannot protrude more than 1/16 of an inch or must be labeled on the tire by the manufacturer saying, “all season mud and snow.” Studded tires provide additional traction in hazardous winter road conditions. They increase grip and traction as well as assist in shorter braking distances and better acceleration in icy conditions.
Studded Tire Season
Studded tires may be used on Montana roadways between October 1st and May 31st which means, it’s time to get them off. Outside of the designated time, drivers may use one studded tire as a spare tire. School buses can operate with studded tires between August 15th and June 15th. Failure to comply with this law gives the Montana Department of Transportation the ability to fine you $85 dollars.
If roads become hazardous outside of the October to May season for snow tires, law enforcement is less likely to impose the fine on you. If a large storm is due to come through before October 1st or after May 31st, it is often permissible to have your snow tires on. Law enforcement will have a focus on safety rather than on the strictness of the studded tires law.
Another reason you should take your studded tires off is to save on gas. The increase in traction directly correlates to lower fuel efficiency. This directly translates into paying more at the pump. Studded tires also degrade the road surface in warmer weather when roads are clear of ice and snow. The metal studs dig directly into the asphalt during clear road conditions instead of into the ice and snow. This digs at the road and causes faster degradation of the road surface. This is a major problem on rural Montana roads because they do not see the same maintenance that major roadways do.
As studless snow tire technology increases there may be a push to outlaw studded tires. Modern studless tires don’t rely on the gripping potential of studs. Instead, the rubber of studless tires remains flexible in freezing temperatures which allows for tires to maintain traction and control in snowy and icy conditions. Studless tires also do not have as negative of an impact on road surfaces because they do not have the metal studs that tear up the road surface.
It’s time to take off those studded tires and put on your summer tires. This will increase your fuel efficiency as well as help preserve the condition of our Montana roadways. Studded tires are a useful tool that helps us all travel around rural Montana safely.
Buzz Tatom is a Partner at Venture West Ranches. He moved to Montana 6 years ago and still owns the 5T ranch in Texas. He has a BBA from Texas Tech and an MBA from SMU. He and his wife, Kathy, are involved in a number of business ventures. He also enjoys being a part-time professor at MSU in the business school and mentoring students. If you’re looking into investing in a rural Montana farm or ranch contact me.