Tire manufacturers will be required to rate the fuel efficiency of their tires if a newly published proposal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) becomes a rule.
Tires would be tested following a procedure under development by the International Organization for Standardization, which is currently in the draft stage. It is expected to be finalized by October 2009.
"To convey information to consumers," NHTSA also is proposing a new tire label "which contains an individual tire's ratings for fuel efficiency (i.e., rolling resistance), safety (i.e., traction) and durability (i.e., treadwear)," say NHTSA officials. (For more details, see "New tire label would include fuel economy info," posted on www.moderntiredealer.com on June 19.)
The agency also is "considering the concept of a combined rating of some sort, which would convert all three benefit metrics into one rating. The advantage of such a system for tire performance ratings would be that it would simplify the ratings, potentially relieving consumers of the task of weighing the ratings for three different metrics for one tire against the three ratings for another tire.
"At the same time, if the single combined rating were presented to the exclusion of individual rankings for each metric, it would obscure the relative performance of individual components that might carry different priorities with different customers....an example of such a system might be expressed as average overall cost per mile."
If NHTSA's proposal becomes a rule, tire retailers would be forced to keep the paper label containing the rating information on a tire until that tire has been sold. NHTSA also would require tire retailers to display a poster that NHTSA would print and distribute to them "which would explain the rating system and encourage customers to compare ratings across tires," say agency officials.
"In addition, for tire manufacturers and retailers that maintain a Web site, the agency is proposing to require those Web sites to link to NHTSA's comprehensive tire Web site" that will be created as part of the agency's national tire maintenance consumer education program.
The annual cost of NHTSA's complete proposal is estimated to be between $18.9 million and $52.8 million, including testing costs, reporting costs, labeling costs and other components.
"It is hoped that the proposed rule will have benefits in terms of fuel economy, safety and durability," say agency officials. "At the very least, the proposed rule should enable consumers to make more informed decisions about these variables, thus increasing benefits along dimensions that most matter to them."
NHTSA is seeking public comments on the above initiatives, due Aug. 21.