WASHINGTON (March 26, 2010) — Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA) issued a final rule on tire fuel-efficiency grading March 25, it will be some time before the standard is truly “final,” NHTSA officials said at a meeting today.
The final rule is available on the NHTSA Web site and will be published in the Federal Register March 30. It contains the basic framework for grading tires for rolling resistance, traction and treadwear, but leaves several technical testing issues and the plan for a consumer information program undecided.
Before the ultimate version of the final rule can be issued, NHTSA must at least issue further rulings on laboratory procedures and consumer information, as well as a revised consumer information research plan the agency will submit to both the public and the Office of Management and Budget for comment, said Mary Versailles, the NHTSA official who is leading the effort to finalize the fuel-efficiency standard.
The March 26 meeting was an opportunity for tire industry spokesmen to give their recommendations on how best to inform consumers about tire fuel-efficiency ratings.
Both Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of the Tire Industry Association, and Daniel Zielinski, senior vice president of public affairs for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, objected to NHTSA's suggestion of making the paper or plastic labels on new replacement tires the main method of dissemination tire fuel-efficiency ratings. Consumers almost never see those labels, they said, and if they were to see them, tire retailers would have to haul multiple tires out of the warehouse to give buyers a reasonable ratings comparison.
Point-of-sale brochures and electronic listings, along with trained salespeople to interpret ratings for tire buyers, would be much preferable to labels, Messrs. Littlefield and Zielinski said.
At one point, prompted by a question from the audience, Mr. Littlefield invoked the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System (UTQG) as an example of what should not be allowed to happen to tire fuel-efficiency ratings.
“UTQG might be a great system, but consumers don't know about it,” he said. “We could get in the same situation here if we don't educate salespeople about the fuel-efficiency grades.”
Interested parties must submit comments on the consumer information issue to the NHTSA docket by April 2. The agency also has posted a Final Regulatory Impact Analysis on the Web site.
Meanwhile, Ms. Versailles has canceled a scheduled speech on the tire fuel-efficiency rule that she was supposed to give at the 26th Annual Clemson University Tire Industry Conference April 7-9.