From the 30th May 2012 you may start to see the new labels appearing on your car tyres, and from 1st November 2012, they will become a legal requirement on all tyres sold in the European Union. Tyre manufacturers have welcomed the new tyre labelling laws as it will better inform tyre consumers of three crucial performance characteristics. The new labels will give information about fuel consumption, wet braking and noise levels. Interestingly, tyre manufacturers actually measure many more performance indicators than just the three on the labels – Dunlop track at least 50!
One area that concerns tyre manufacturers is winter performance. Under the rules that will soon be followed, a strong winter tyre could appear weaker than its summer competitors due to increased fuel consumption and noise. However, despite these values increasing, when braking in ice or snow, or climbing a steep hill in colder weather, the winter tyres would outperform the summer tyres dramatically. It has been proposed that a seasonal element be added to the labelling to cover this.
Another concern of the manufacturers is that noise rating isn’t really that useful for consumers. The quality of road surfaces, certain aspects of civil engineering such as roadside fencing and tree planting, traffic volume, and vehicle manufacturing have a bigger effect on the noise of highways than tyres. Also, the decibel level is measured externally, and if your car is well sound-proofed, you probably won’t notice much difference between loud or quiet tyres. Low wet braking and fuel consumption levels are things that increase consumers’ safety and save them money. What incentive is there to buy quiet tyres? Tyre manufacturers already feel there is a chance the noise rating may simply be ignored by both manufacturers and consumers in favour of concentrating on wet braking and fuel consumption. While this should improve the quality of tyres, it does diminish the effect of the new labels.
Whatever happens with regards to manufacturers’ focus when designing new tyres, it is reassuring to know that the tyre labelling laws are already scheduled for review in 2016, so perhaps the noise rating will change to tread wear, which is already rated in America. Together with the wet braking and fuel consumption ratings, this would give consumers a rounded view of the car tyres they are choosing to fit. Whatever the future brings, the tyre labels promise to push tyre manufacturers’ to innovate for the benefit of consumers.