It’s been one year since Chuck Cohen, director of Palm Tran, Palm Beach County’s bus transit system, announced that he was testing the effectiveness of filling his bus tires with nitrogen instead of air.
At that time, he said the tests would take up to a year, and he promised to share the test results with me and everybody else.
Readers of this blog and my Hometown News column are familiar with two previous articles I wrote on nitrogen in tires: “Don’t pay for nitrogen in tour tires” and “Nitrogen scam foisted on Palm Tran.”
You can read or re-read both of those articles by clicking on my blog, www.EarlStewartOnCars.com (or go to the archives section on HTN’s Web site).
I also posted the “Consumer Reports” article, “Tires-Nitrogen air loss study,” from Oct. 4, 2007 on www.EarlStewart.com (click on nitrogen-filled tires information).
This one-year study is the strongest, most authoritative proof that there is no measurable advantage to using nitrogen instead of regular air in your tires.
I sent Chuck Cohen three e-mails, beginning last March, asking him for any information he might have about the results of his testing. I received no replies until he finally answered my last e-mail this morning, Sept. 12. He wrote, “I will get back to you in the next day or so with a longer response.”
I received the below e-mail from Mr. Cohen, just before the deadline for this column. It’s now clear to me why he did not answer my e-mails but it’s not clear why he did not publicly announce the six-month delay in testing as he did the earlier erroneous date.
“Sorry for any delay in getting back to you, but as you are probably aware, we had several major things going on over the last week or so, including a fare hearing on our proposed fare increase for our paratransit service, that had to take precedence.
“While we did publicly announce that we were going to be testing the use of nitrogen in 2007, the actual testing did not begin until 2008. That was due to a delay in getting the nitrogen units installed in our North County (WPB) facility until January 2008.
“Our fleet conversion then took approximately 30 days and our testing began in February 2008. Our current plans are to complete our testing by the end of January 2009.
“I will insure that you get a copy of the test data when the test is done and our results are written up. Thanks for your continuing interest in this project.”
I responded by asking Mr. Cohen the following four questions:
• When you “publicly announced” that testing would begin in September 2007 and would be completed within a year, why didn't you also publicly announce that testing was being delayed for six months?
• I e-mailed you in March asking you about the testing results while still under the impression, as was the public that the tests were in process. I e-mailed you two weeks ago, asking the same question and a third e-mail one week ago. Why did you not respond to my e-mails until last Friday?
• When will your tests that commenced last February be completed?
• Will you advise the public and me if you delay the testing again?
Remember that this test is being conducted at an approximately $65,000 taxpayer expense and it is being conducted months after the “Consumer Reports” study was already published.
There was another article in “The New York Times” within the last year that came to the same conclusion about nitrogen in tires being worthless. The author, Tim Moran, has asked me to keep him posted on the developments with Palm Tran.
In an e-mail from Tim this morning, he suggested that, in addition to profit, one of the reasons so many car dealers are selling nitrogen is that they believe it does customers’ tires no harm.
I e-mailed him back and said, “What these folks don’t understand is that there is a detrimental effect when you make people believe in a product that doesn’t work. Item No. 1 in your list is that ‘it does no harm.’”
Drivers should really check their air pressure at least monthly, but with the “magic nitrogen” in their tires, they probably won’t feel it’s necessary.
Shark cartilage is “harmless too,” unless you don’t see your doctor regularly for checkups because you believe you can’t catch cancer.
I checked with four different car dealers to see what they are charging for putting nitrogen in tires.
John Pierson Toyota of Stuart charges $50. They used to have an addendum label on all of their cars with a charge of $199 for nitrogen. I guess that was a little more than people were willing to pay.
Schumacher Infiniti and Royal Palm Toyota both charge $39.95 and Maroone Toyota in Fort Lauderdale charges $37.95.
Tire Kingdom is also pushing nitrogen and it appears as if most car dealers in South Florida are selling it, too.
One of the reasons I’m pressing Chuck Cohen, Palm Tran and Palm Beach County government officials for justification of using nitrogen in bus tires is the fact that their using nitrogen adds legitimacy to all of these service departments that are peddling a worthless product to you, the consumer and tax payer.
If Palm Beach County government officials give their tacit endorsement of nitrogen by continuing to use it in their bus tires, you can bet that every seller of nitrogen in Florida will tout this as absolute proof that nitrogen in tires gives better gas mileage and longer tire wear.