WASHINGTON (March 25, 2010)—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a final rule on tire fuel efficiency grading, on the eve of a stakeholders' meeting to discuss how best to handle the consumer information and education portions of the standard.
NHTSA issued the 195-page document on its Web site today, with plans to publish it shortly in the Federal Register. The standard requires that tire manufacturers grade replacement tires for fuel efficiency (rolling resistance), safety (traction) and durability (treadwear) through testing methods set forth in the rule within 12 months of the rule's publication.
“Comparing the three different ratings à will enable consumers to see how different replacement tires can affect the fuel economy they are getting from their vehicles,” the final rule states.
The standard calls on tire makers to rate fuel efficiency as measured by Test 28580, which was finalized recently by the International Organization for Standardization. However, the agency has not yet completed all aspects of a procedure to correlate results between different testing equipment, and is postponing the specification of Lab Alignment Tires for the testing, the final rule said.
For safety and durability, NHTSA specifies the test procedures already specified under the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System, though the traction test may require a one-time modification in the software, the agency said.
NHTSA is deferring a decision on rolling resistance rating metrics, consumer information program requirements, information dissemination and manufacturer reporting requirements pending further public comment and consumer testing, the agency said.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Tire Industry Association, the industry groups most affected by the standard, said they were still studying the document.
“Right now there's a great deal that has yet to be determined,” an RMA spokesman said. He said the final rule leaves open the question of whether to measure fuel efficiency through the rolling resistance coefficient, which the RMA favors, or rolling resistance force.
“Apparently tire manufacturers aren't required to send all test measurements to NHTSA, but just the ratings, which is something we advocated,” the spokesman said. On the other hand, the agency's research on consumer information is not scheduled to be completed until Sept. 30, he said.
“Parts of the rule are encouraging, but I suspect we are going to wait for some time to see what will be the 'ultimate' final rule,” said Paul Fiore, TIA director of government and business relations. TIA has said in its comments to NHTSA that it is the logical organization to coordinate the consumer information aspects of the tire fuel efficiency rule.