Low rolling resistance bill has first supporter, detractor

July 11, 2006

Industry organizations are beginning to take sides in the debate over H.R. 5632, which would require tiremakers to provide consumers with point-of-sale information about tire rolling resistance.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) took a proactive approach in helping push the bill forward (see "RMA spells out support of rolling resistance bill in letter," June 30, 2006). In contrast, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) considers it unnecessary, while the Tire Industry Association (TIA) is non-committal ("SEMA condemns rolling resistance bill, TIA takes it under 'careful consideration,'" July 10).

"H.R. 5632 will empower consumers to make their own purchasing decisions regarding tire fuel efficiency," says Dan Zielinski, vice president of communications for the RMA. "It will provide them with information that is not currently available."

Zielinski says the way the bill is outlined now, each tire's fuel efficiency would be comparable under a rating system that has yet to be developed. Unlike the Uniform Tire Quality Grading system, however, there would be no sidewall labeling. In addition, tire manufacturers would be totally responsible for the consumer information program.

(The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has an existing tire education program, "What's Your PSI?" The campaign is designed to help vehicle owners maintain proper tire pressure.)

"H.R. 5632 is not a mandate for rolling resistance standards," adds Zielinski.

The bill, which was approved by the House's Energy and Commerce Committee last month, may not apply to all 50 states in its final form. An amendment already has been filed that, in effect, allows California to continue to follow its own tire efficiency legislation, AB 844, which was passed in 2003. TIA was against passage of that bill when it was being considered.

In April, the Transportation Research Board and the Board on Energy and Environmental Systems, both part of the National Academies' Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, released Special Report 286, "Tires and Passenger Vehicle Fuel Economy: Informing Consumers, Improving Performance."

The committee that produced the report observed that consumers have little, if any, practical way of assessing how tire choices can affect vehicle fuel economy. It recommended that Congress authorize and make sufficient resources available for NHTSA to prompt and work with the tire industry in gathering and reporting information on the influence of passenger tires on vehicle fuel consumption.