Efforts in Europe and the U.S. to establish formal ratings to gauge fuel economy, wet-weather traction and tread wear in the consumer tire market are unlikely to be replicated for commercial vehicle tires – largely because much of that information is already easily available to fleet owners.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. (NHTSA) proposed a rule last June to display, for the first time, information about a tire’s impact on fuel economy and carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions, along with wet-weather traction and tread wear, on a removable label attached to the replacement tire at the point of sale. Though a final version of the rule was due in December, it’s still working its way through various U.S. government agencies.
“The European Commission has fully approved and is in the process of implementing the new regulations establishing minimum performance thresholds and consumer information labeling for tire performance across Europe,” said Dr. Patrick Oliva, global vp of sustainable development for the Michelin Group.
“Similarly, NHTSA is working to finalize a new regulation for the U.S. that will establish consumer information and labeling requirements for tire performance,” he added. “The final rule from NHTSA is expected early this year – though the expected U.S. regulation does not currently include the specification of minimum tire performance standards unlike the EU legislation.”
Michelin supports efforts to establish “meaningful tire labeling” for fuel economy at the point of purchase, said Oliva, to assure the removal of tires that are the worst performers in fuel efficiency. Yet some tire experts do not believe a similar rulemaking effort will be attempted for heavy-truck tires
“This rule is intended to make sure that consumers have the information to select fuel-efficient tires in addition to the UTQG [uniform tire quality grading] ratings already provided,” said Kevin Rohlwing, senior vp-training & technical services for the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and a FleetOwner columnist. “Fleets can get all the information they want on truck tires. Retail consumers are in a different position.”
However, Michelin’s Oliva indicated more such tire ratings may be inevitable as governments worldwide continue to examine ways to reduce CO2 emissions as part of broader efforts to fight global warming – and CO2 emissions directly correlate to vehicle fuel economy.
“Today, about 45% of the oil extracted worldwide is used for road transport,” said OIiva. “Of the fuel used by passenger cars, up to 20% is directly related to tire rolling resistance, 30% or more for trucks.” That equates to about 9% of global oil consumption that is directly related to tire use, he pointed out.
“Despite the lack of any binding agreement and beyond all rhetoric, the Copenhagen [global climate change conference] has shown a widespread conviction to take clear action to reduce CO2 emissions,” Oliva stressed. “The transportation industry is no exception and will not escape this necessity.”