You may not have heard of many of these companies and their tires. Some of these tires can only be purchased on e-Bay while others are being offered in 20-foot container lots direct from a manufacturer in China. Are they really fuel efficient? The answer is, “Compared with what?”
How SmartWay works
You have to understand how the SmartWay tire program works. In the overall scheme of things, it is relatively easy for lesser-quality tires to become SmartWay verified. All that tire manufacturers have to do is provide proof that their fuel efficient tire saves at least 3 percent or more in fuel consumption relative to their own best-selling new tires for line haul tractors when used on all three axles.
Since they may be comparing a slightly better tire with a really bad, inefficient one they produce, they can get on the SmartWay list. The fuel-economy tests are conducted by the manufacturer itself and since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — which runs the SmartWay program — does not have the capability to check the test results, it must trust the manufacturer to report fuel economy numbers honestly.
- This column appears in the Aug. 17 print edition of Tire Business.
So, since they are comparing their own tires and conducting the fuel economy verification tests themselves, you can see how they can get on the list with tires that look like they would operate well in mud and sand. You can also see that these tires probably are not close at all when it comes to fuel efficiency when compared to other tires on the list produced by Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturers. But they are fuel efficient when compared with other tires these manufacturers produce.