The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed some new tire ratings labels to help consumers looking to buy new tires. Rating tires in three areas, fuel economy and greenhouse commissions, wet traction, and durability, the NHTSA is apparently trying to focus consumers’ attention on the fuel savings to be found in choosing a low-rolling resistance tire. Plus, this is a handy and quick way to directly compare tires, something that is notoriously difficult to do. But holy lawsuits, Batman! What could the unintended consequences be?
While low-rolling-resistance tires can certainly increase fuel economy, and the label does include that little wet traction bar, what happens if folks simply say, “how much less grip could this tire possibly give?” and buy the one that gives the highest MPG increase? Certainly low resistance tires give less traction, and according to a quick check of government sites, there’s no hard scientific data comparing the effectiveness of a low-resistance tire to a normal one. Let’s hope that when the NHTSA finalizes this proposal, they include adequate warnings and more information to help educate consumers about traction/fuel economy trade-offs.