Law & Order

Federal Government Seeks Fuel-Efficiency Ratings for Most Replacement Tires

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) moved closer to establishing a consumer information system to rate the fuel economy, safety and durability characteristics of most replacement tires. The agency issued a final rule to establish test procedures to be used by tire manufacturers in determining tire ratings. However, the NHTSA has not yet finalized a program on how the information will be conveyed to consumers at the point of sale and online.

The program is required under a 2007 law which contains a SEMA provision exempting from the rating system those tires that have been produced or imported in annual units of less than 15,000, and do not exceed 35,000 tires in total brand name production.

The premise for the new program is to allow consumers to compare ratings for different replacement tires and determine the effect of tire choices on fuel economy or the potential tradeoffs between tire fuel efficiency (rolling resistance), safety (wet traction) and durability (treadwear life). The consumer information may be conveyed in the form of a 1–5 star rating system for each category, a 0–100 rating system or some similar approach.

The tire ratings would be included on a label affixed to each tire. The exact label design has not been set. Once finalized, the new regulations will take effect within one year.

When it issued a proposed rule in 2009, the NHTSA considered requiring all limited-production tire manufacturers to submit reporting data so that the agency could identify the tires for which the 15,000-/35,000-unit low-volume exemption was claimed. In comments submitted to the agency, SEMA convinced the NHTSA that such a paperwork burden was unnecessary.

Instead, the NHTSA agreed to require that the limited-production tire manufacturers provide a one-time list of its tire models/sizes, along with a statement that the tire models/sizes are excluded from the applicability of the regulation and, thus, are not rated. When the manufacturer introduces a new tire model or size that it also believes is excluded under the rule, it must send a statement declaring as such to the NHTSA 30 days before it is first offered for sale.

Questions? Contact Stuart Gosswein.