It's high time the federal government took a long, hard look at its Uniform Tire Quality Grading system for passenger tires. Either UTQG must be changed in order to be made meaningful-thereby fulfilling its intended purpose of allowing motorists to make informed purchasing decisions-or the government should give up trying to grade tires on the basis of quality. As things stand, the numerical and alphabetical grades required for passenger tires are almost unknown, not to mention unintelligible, to the typical buyer-which is probably for the best considering UTQG's questionable credibility.
Knowledgeable industry insiders are highly skeptical of the treadwear grades assigned to passenger tires by manufacturers and private brand marketers and published by the government as an aid to consumers.
Such grades, they contend, seem to reflect the sales objectives of the manufacturer or marketer more than the tires' probable treadlife.
Why else, ask critics, would the private brand tires made by some manufacturers receive higher treadwear gradings than those of that maker's flagship brand?
Dealers too are skeptical and generally don't bring up UTQG when selling tires to consumers. If they did, buyers might ask what the system's meaningless treadwear numbers, such as 300 or 400, stand for-leaving the seller hard pressed to provide a satisfactory answer.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has asked for comments regarding the proposed addition of rolling resistance to its present tire grading criteria, which include treadwear, traction and temperature resistance. NHTSA also is asking for suggestions on how to make its present system more meaningful.
One obvious way is for NHTSA to do the testing and assign the quality grades to increase the objectivity and therefore the credibility of the treadwear ratings.
Meanwhile, rather than add rolling resistance to an already confusing array of variables, NHTSA should drop the present numerical system in favor of a more understandable means of projecting treadlife.
It's time UTQG got a thorough overhaul.