For the first time in several years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is publicizing its latest set of Uniform Tire Quality Grading figures from the tire industry.
Furthermore, the treadwear results in the UTQG database updated Feb. 12 show the strides in tire quality and longevity that have been made in just the past few years.
``Consumers deserve the best possible information for selecting tires, and these ratings will provide information to help make the right decisions,'' said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta in a press release accompanying the new UTQG figures.
There was no official word from NHTSA as to why it chose to publicize this year's results after not doing so the last few years despite updating the UTQG figures annually.
Of the more than 2,200 different tire models listed in the database, 79 have treadwear grades of 600 or more. Of those, 22 have grades of 700. This compares with the high treadwear grade of 560 in 1997, which 12 tire models held.
The current high grades mark a vast difference from tire company attitudes when the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System was first mandated in 1979-80. Except for Uniroyal Inc., which used its high treadwear grades in its advertising, tire companies tended to grade their tires for treadwear at about 150, to avoid being accused of overgrading.
This caused Joan Claybrook, the NHTSA administrator who first mandated UTQG, to accuse the tire industry of trying to render the system meaningless.
A spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association said it has been many years since anyone in the tire industry has feared being found in noncompliance for treadwear overgrading-particularly when so many tire makers have warranties good for 80,000-85,000 miles.
``Overall the average ratings are up,'' the spokesman said. ``I don't know what that means, but it probably reflects the desire of consumers for longer-lasting tires.''
The complete UTQG listings can be found at www.safercar.gov.