It starts with SmartWay but rests on reputation

Choosing the right tire for your equipment can be a fairly daunting task. The list of tire manufacturers seems endless, as do the various tire options within each manufacturer’s portfolio.

Some fleets have turned to SmartWay to help narrow their selection. During research for our recently completed low rolling resistance Confidence Report, we learned the SmartWay verified list of tires has grown a lot in the past few years and may be about to grow even more. As of mid-year the list contains more than 170 tire brands with many models under those brands.

The fact that tire manufacturers feel the need to get their tires listed on the SmartWay list is certainly a positive sign. SmartWay sets a rolling resistance threshold for each type of tire at a level that reduces fuel consumption lowering the fuel costs for fleets.

While this is useful information, fleets need to be careful because the presence of a tire on the SmartWay list is no guarantee of the tire’s quality in terms of things like its cost, traction, treadlife or retreadability. SmartWay just speaks to the rolling resistance coefficient of a tire.

Every manufacturer we spoke with for our Confidence Report told us that it is not difficult to meet the performance threshold for rolling resistance and therefore produce a tire that is SmartWay verified. There also can be multiply means to get a tire on the list.  For instance, as is stated in the Confidence Report, rolling resistance is directly related to tread depth as the deeper the depth, the more energy is consumed by the tire wiggling around as it moves over the road.  So, a tire manufacturer could just shave off tread to meet the RRc requirements, but dramatically affect life of the tire, even to a total absurd level and making the total cost of ownership unacceptable. 

Another approach is to work with various rubber compounds and redesign the configuration of the tire, even making it out of more “parts”.  This makes for a highly engineered low rolling resistance tire that meets or even exceeds the low rolling resistance threshold, but also wears well, has good traction and is affordable. 

As discussed my IdeaXchange blog last week, total cost of ownership is the key, not just one aspect of it.  In this case, start with the SmartWay list and then your best bet is to choose a tire from a trusted tire manufacturer. If you can’t afford to run your own tire tests, you have to rely on the fact that the tire manufacturer has a reputation to uphold.

And in the trucking industry, companies live and die by their reputation.

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