Tiremakers go green with SmartWay

June 29, 2010

It’s no secret that fuel efficiency has been a top concern among trucking fleets for many years. However, up until recently, any effort by fleet owners to reduce fuel consumption and, in turn, their rigs’ greenhouse gas emissions, by running low rolling resistance tires on tractors and trailers was strictly voluntary.

That all changed this past January when regulations designed to reduce truck emissions went into effect in California.

The rule, which was mandated by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), requires all 2011 model year and newer day cab tractors that pull 53-foot or longer box-type trailers in the Golden State to run on low rolling resistance tires that have been verified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of SmartWay-verified technologies.

It also mandates that 2011 model year and newer trailers operating in California must be either SmartWay-certified or equipped with low rolling resistance tires and retrofitted with SmartWay-approved aerodynamic technologies.

Created in 2004, the SmartWay label identifies products and services that reduce transportation-related emissions. It has become perhaps the most sought-after designation in the commercial truck tire market.

No fewer than eight truck tire manufacturers have placed products on the EPA’s SmartWay list, with more companies submitting products for consideration.


Industry benchmark

The CARB rule applies to all tractors traveling on California highways, regardless of their home base or point of origin. That means fleets from other parts of North America sending trucks into California must equip those vehicles with SmartWay-approved tires in order to comply with the regulation.

The CARB rule has pushed the SmartWay program into the spotlight, say truck tire manufacturers.

“It’s important to understand how the CARB program is affecting line-haul fleets in other parts of the country,” says Brian Sheehey, director of Hankook Tire America Corp.’s Commercial Tire Group.

To qualify for SmartWay certification, truck tires must meet EPA-mandated test criteria. Two testing methods are available to tire manufacturers, which may perform their own testing (for details, see sidebar on page 30). Several companies also have used third party labs to evaluate their products.

“The first is a method in which you run a comparison test on a test track against a reference set of tires,” says Don Baldwin, product marketing manager, Michelin Americas Truck Tires. The goal is to demonstrate a 3% fuel savings benefit.

“The second method is a straightforward measurement of rolling resistance to a prescribed procedure. You run your tires on your own (testing) equipment.”

This method is designed to yield a rolling resistance value at or below target values for specific tire models.

A third method had been available, but the EPA dropped it several months ago. The method was meant to be more inclusive than the first two, but as such, was the least stringent of the three, says John Cooney, director of commercial sales for Yokohama Tire Corp.

“There was no benchmark to measure against. All you had to say was, ‘This tire is X% more fuel-efficient than another tire we sell.’”

Certification according to universal standards is critical because it provides manufacturers “with a tangible goal to achieve through the improvement of features like carcass design and innovations in treads and compounding,” says Sheehey.

“Before, manufacturers would come out with fuel-efficient tires according to whatever standards we deemed appropriate. This provides a single standard for all of us to achieve.”


For dealers and end users, it also “takes the guesswork out of the equation. What’s fuel-efficient? What’s compliant? Claims from marketing and sales departments now can be verified.

“Depending on the manufacturer, we may agree or disagree on what the standard should be. But there is one. It provides a goal… and we can confirm that our tires meet a standard.”

Program under construction

Eight tire manufacturers currently have products on the SmartWay list: Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC, Double Coin Holdings Ltd., Continental Tire the Americas LLC, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Hankook Tire America Corp., Michelin North America Inc., Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. and Yokohama Tire Corp. (see page 30 for a complete list).

Double Coin is the only Chinese company to have earned the SmartWay label — a breakthrough achievement for the firm, according to Aaron Murphy, vice president of Double Coin’s U.S. subsidiary, China Manufacturers Alliance LLC. The Double Coin FT105, a trailer axle tire, was certified via third party testing, says Murphy.

“We focused on the trailer position because there is significant demand (for trailer tires) from OEMs. We know that as SmartWay-certified fleets grow, we will need products to meet that demand.”

Tire manufacturers that are not working toward SmartWay certification “are going to have problems in the future,” says Sheehey.

While California is the only state that currently requires trucks to run on SmartWay-approved tires, other states may adopt similar regulations, he explains.

SmartWay test requirements are not expected to remain static either, according to Kyle Jensen, manager of industry and government relations for Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions, which has 12 tires on the SmartWay list.

“I would think the EPA would take it to another level,” he says. “They’ve already talked about having kind of an ‘elite status’ within the program. We don’t know when, but we think it’s going to happen.”


“We believe there will be some significant changes” to the program, says Yokohama’s Cooney. Tougher test requirements would make it more difficult to join the SmartWay club.

As for tires that already made the grade, “we anticipate there will be a ‘grandfathering period’ for (fleets) that have already made buying decisions,” he says. “We would expect that tires that are already certified would be grandfathered for their lifecycle. If you bought a tire that was SmartWay-certified today and the regulation changed tomorrow, we don’t expect the EPA to say, ‘You have to change those tires now.’

“We believe there probably will be some type of grace period from the time they announce new regulations until the tires that are currently on the list will be scrutinized” to see if they meet or exceed revised standards.

Prior to the advent of CARB regulations, participation in SmartWay was voluntary.

“There weren’t a lot of checks and balances,” says Cooney, “but they’re coming. We believe there will be some significant changes.”

This could include rating tires according to their respective rolling resistance levels, says Michelin’s Baldwin. “Right now you can’t look at the list and tell what a tire’s relative rolling resistance is. The tire is either on the list or not.”

The benefit for dealers

Clif Armstrong, director of marketing, Commercial Vehicle Tires, the Americas, for Continental Tire the Americas LLC, says the SmartWay program nicely dovetails into his company’s efforts to educate fleets about the fuel saving benefits of low rolling resistance tires.

Continental, which has five of its flagship brand tires on the SmartWay list, is applying the technology it developed to gain SmartWay certification to “decreasing the rolling resistance of several of our General brand products. ” Four General brand truck tires were recently added to the SmartWay list.

Continental has submitted several other tires for SmartWay approval, as well.


Promoting SmartWay to fleets makes perfect sense, according to Jensen.. “The big thing is that it helps promote discussions about fuel efficiency. That’s probably the biggest benefit.”

Baldwin agrees. “We’ve done extensive training with our sales force and we’ve given information to dealers,” he says. “We’re also answering questions from fleets. The point I always make is while you need to be on SmartWay tires in order to operate in California, you need to look even deeper and choose the best tire for overall fuel efficiency.

“We tell our dealers that the value of selling low rolling resistance is that when you get down to it, what the fleet’s interested in is reducing its cost.”

Cooney says having tires on the SmartWay list has helped Yokohama maintain its current sales to fleets “that have a need for a verified product. You need to have it if you want to continue to do business with customers who do business in California.”

Discussing anticipated enhancements to SmartWay tire testing, “I think it’s somewhat of an honor, particularly in the future… to have a standard by which all manufacturers and products will be held to the same testing standard.”

Astute dealers even can use SmartWay as a marketing tool, says Sheehey. “A lot of independent commercial tire dealers are tasked with providing complete tire maintenance programs. If you’re a dealer and a large fleet has outsourced all of its tire work to you, you are responsible for making sure that fleet is compliant.

“Before it was just about the right applications and the right air pressure for the appropriate load, and making sure duals were matched,” he continues.

Now, even if a fleet has a good tire maintenance program, “not having the appropriate SmartWay-verified tire could cost that fleet dearly. There are fines that are going to be attached to non-compliance.Plus, any program that assists in improving fuel economy is just good business.”   ■


 SmartWay performance requirements -- Tiremakers have two verification methods

Truck tire manufacturers can use two methods to ensure prove that their products meet SmartWay certification. Here’s a summary of each:

 Method one:

Objective: demonstrate a 3% fuel savings benefit on an SAE J1321 Type II Truck Fuel Economy Test compared to baseline tires with the following maximum rolling resistance values:

Steer: 6.8

Drive: 8.6

Trailer: 6.1

Method two:

Objective: demonstrate a tire rolling resistance value at or below the following target rr value for a given tire model, as tested on an SAE J1269 tire rolling resistance test:

Steer: 5.8

Drive: 7.3

Trailer: 5.2

A third method was available until April 1, 2010, when it was eliminated. The method required tiremakers to meet the following two objectives:

Demonstrate a tire rolling resistance value at or below the target rr value (5.3 to 6.4) for a given tire test as tested on an SAE J1269 tire rolling resistance test, and assume the following weight distribution, in order to combine the three tire rolling resistance values into a combined rolling resistance value for a given tire set:

Steer: 15%

Drive: 42.5%

Trailer: 42.5%

At least one of the tires in the set must demonstrate a rr value of at or below the following target rr value:

Steer: 5.8

Drive: 7.3

Trailer: 5.2

* Info supplied to MTD by Michelin North America Inc.


 Who’s on the SmartWay list? -- So far, eight manufacturers have approved tires

The following medium truck tires are on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of SmartWay-verified technologies. (In the event of multiple brands for a single company, we’ve listed individual tire names in parentheses):

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC. Bridgestone brand (R287A, R280, R250F, M720, Greatec drive, Greatec R125 trailer, R195F, and R197); Firestone brand: (FS590 PLUS, FS507, FD662 and FT455 PLUS).

Double Coin Holdings Ltd.: FT105.

Continental Tire the Americas LLC: HSL-2, HDL Eco Plus, HDL2 DL Eco Plus, HTL Eco Plus, HTL 1.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.: Goodyear brand: (G395 Fuel Max, G399 Fuel Max, G662 Fuel Max, G305 LHD Fuel Max, G392 SSD, G305 Fuel Max AT, G316 LHT Fuel Max, G316 Fuel Max DuraSeal); Dunlop brand: (SP384 FM, SP456 FM and SP193 FM).

Hankook Tire America Corp.: AL07+, AL11, Z35A, DL11 and TL01.

Michelin North America Inc.: Michelin brand (XZA3, XZA2, XZA1+, XZE, XZE2, XZA2 Energy, XDA2+ Energy, XDA Energy, XDA3, X-One XDA, X-One XDN2, XDE2+, XDN2, XDE M/S, XTA Energy, XT1, X-One XTA, X-One XTE and XTE, X-One XDA Energy); BFGoodrich brand (ST244 and TR144).

Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.: M137, M154, M657 and M127.

Yokohama Tire Corp.: RY617, 103ZR, 101ZL, 703ZL, TY517mc2, TY577, RY587mc2 and RY587.

Other tiremakers are attempting to earn SmartWay approval. Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. plans to submit its KLS02 truck tire for SmartWay approval.

Basic requirements -- Next deadline is in 2012

The following California Air Resources Board (CARB) requirements and implementation dates apply to tires for all 53-foot or longer box-type trailers, including both dry van and refrigerated van trailers, and heavy-duty tractors in California:


Jan. 1, 2010: 2011 model year and newer day cab tractors must have low rolling resistance tires.

Jan. 1, 2012: All 2011 model year and older sleeper cab and day cab tractors must have low rolling resistance tires.


Jan. 1, 2010: 2011 model year and newer trailers must be either SmartWay-certified or equipped with low rolling resistance tires and retrofitted with SmartWay-approved aerodynamic technologies.

Jan. 1, 2013: Unless registered by optional phase-in deadlines, all 2010 model year and older box-type trailers mist be SmartWay-certified or equipped with low rolling resistance tires and retrofitted with SmartWay-approved aerodynamic technologies.

Through 2020, CARB estimates that truckers and trucking companies will save about $8.6 billion in fuel thanks to compliance with the above mandates.