More than two-thirds of the 281 fleet operators who responded to a Fleet News tyre survey sponsored by Michelin are not aware of the forthcoming European Union (EU) tyre labelling regulation.
The regulation requires all tyres on sale from November 2012 to display a label showing ratings for fuel efficiency, wet grip and external noise.
Fuel efficiency and wet grip will be rated from A to G (with A top), while noise will be given in decibels. Minimum standards must be met before a tyre is even eligible for a ranking.
Some budget tyres are expected to fall short.
Tyre manufacturers will carry out the tests themselves, but will follow strict EU guidelines.
When quizzed about the label indicators, most of the fleet respondents who say they are aware of the regulation could name two, or all three, ratings correctly.
However, just over two-fifths of the respondents who are aware of the labelling scheme did not attempt to name them, suggesting a lack of knowledge about the details.
Aim of tyre labelling
The labelling scheme is intended to make it easier for end-users to make an informed decision and to encourage the uptake of fuel-efficient and safe tyres with low noise levels.
EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs says: “Consumers and fleet managers will be able to choose safer and low noise tyres and save on fuel bills while the European Union will benefit from reduced road transport emissions.”
Fleet operators are divided on the impact it will have on their choice of tyre.
Around a quarter (27%) of respondents say the knowledge provided by the labelling scheme will influence their tyre choice while 42% say it won’t and 31% are unsure.
However a sizeable proportion of fleets do not have the choice in the first place.
For 43% of respondents, the decision over which brand of tyre to purchase is make by leasing companies, particularly if they are on a ‘with maintenance’ contract.
David Graham, fleet manager at E.on which has 4,100 vehicles, does believe tyre labelling will have an impact.
He says: “It will move people to think about the technical capability of the tyre rather than brand. Having said that, if all tyres are rated ‘A’ then brand may be a consideration.”
It’s a key point: will the labelling scheme really make a difference? According to Michelin, yes. It believes fleets will see major differences in the gradings of the premium tyre suppliers, particularly on fuel economy.
The differences will be even more pronounced for imported budget brands – that is, if they even make the grade.
The introduction of the labelling scheme is also likely to herald a flurry of new tyre launches, as manufacturers jostle to put highly rated products on the market.
Realistically, fleets should be considering tyres graded C and above in the first instance, but the scheme is likely to develop further in the future.
“We see appliances going to A+ and A++ ratings as they get even more efficiency,” says Dave Crinson, Michelin sales manager car fleets. “Tyre labelling will go the same way.”
Graham already instructs his leasing provider to choose a premium quality tyre from a well-known, reputable brand. He expects the leasing company to choose one of four brands and to be within a certain budget.
He suggests the labelling may lead to him specifying ‘A’ or ‘B’ rated tyres in future.
Fleet operators who do take note of the labelling are likely to pay close attention to the fuel efficiency and wet grip ratings and largely ignore the external noise rating.