WASHINGTON (May 5, 2006) — The tire industry is floating a legislative proposal on Capitol Hill to create a consumer notification and information program on replacement tire rolling resistance and fuel economy.
Such a bill, industry pundits said, could forestall efforts in Congress and in state legislatures to create a mandate that replacement tires be at least as fuel-efficient as the original equipment tires they replace.
California passed such a law three years ago, and the California Energy Commission is expected to release a report later this year on the feasibility of creating a rolling-resistance/fuel-economy rating system for replacement tires.
Meanwhile, two New York Democrats in Congress—Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Eliot Engel—have sponsored bills to mandate low rolling resistance in tires, and eight other states have followed California's lead in considering rolling-resistance legislation.
While the details of the federal proposal aren't firm yet, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) is pondering the creation of a consumer notification program on the federal level, according to Mark Burtschi, Goodyear director of federal and state affairs.
The program probably would consist of a grading system similar to Uniform Tire Quality Grading, but as a separate initiative rather than an addition to UTQG, Mr. Burtschi said.
The grades would be disseminated not through labels molded on the sidewall but probably through pamphlets or other point-of-sale materials.
There also would be an informational Web site—as well as a consumer bulletin from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—which would have oversight over the program.
“Most people don't see their tires before they're put on the car,” Mr. Burtschi said about the decision not to mandate labeling.
The RMA sees the proposal as an amendment to the next federal energy bill, an association spokes-man said.
“Instead of mandatory technology and reporting, the consumer program will provide information so that people will have the tools to choose replacement tires with low rolling resistance, if that's what they want,” the spokesman said.
“It will let the marketplace dictate what happens.”
A National Academy of Sciences report released in April stated that rolling resistance in replacement tires easily could be trimmed by 10 percent—but only if the cost of doing so didn't outstrip fuel savings for consumers.
The NAS report, the RMA spokesman said, was an important addition to the rolling-resistance debate.
“It suggested that it would be very helpful if consumers had the information about the role of rolling resistance in fuel economy,” he said.
“But it also said that they should be reminded about the importance of tire maintenance.”
There is no timetable as yet for the introduction of this proposal, according to both men.