Government forces bent on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from commercial trucks through increased fuel efficiency are driving manufacturers of truck tires and retreads to build products that deliver the largest possible contribution to miles-per-gallon performance. And if they don’t stay at the top of this game, tire and retread suppliers risk losing both OE-fitment and fleet-replacement market share.
That’s why tire and retread suppliers are all about closing what can be termed the mpg loop— the contribution rubber on the road makes to truck fuel efficiency, whether it’s as an original tire, a replacement tire, or as one or more retreads in fleet service.
Among the first developments to accelerate the birth of more fuel-efficient tires and retreads were the GHG limits placed on certain highway tractors, which were put forth by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) back in 2008 and came into effect in 2010.
CARB, by the way, estimates that by the close of 2020, its GHG reg will have saved truck operators “about $8.6 billion when diesel fuel consumption is reduced by as much as 750 million gals. in California and by 5 billion gals. across the nation.” And per CARB, that fuel-efficiency gain will come thanks to “improvements in tractor and trailer aerodynamics and the use of low rolling resistance tires.”
At pretty much the same time the CARB rule came about, mpg-savvy fleet owners as well as those responding to environmentally conscious shippers began to increasingly seek out tires that met the fuel-consumption criteria required for verification by the voluntary SmartWay program launched by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Yet another mpg pressure point being applied to tires is the federal GHG rules that will begin to be imposed on commercial truck OEMs starting less than two years from now.
And to be sure, the contribution retreads can make to closing the mpg loop has at last caught the spotlight in a big way. In June, as part of its SmartWay program, EPA started a fuel-efficiency verification program for “tire retread technologies for use on linehaul Class 8 trucks.”
EPA states that the resulting verified “low rolling resistance retread products” will provide cuts in fuel consumption of at least 3% compared to the “most popular retreaded products now in use.”
Retread suppliers must test their products and demonstrate they meet the required performance criteria to be listed by SmartWay as verified retreads. EPA notes that to obtain the minimum fuel-consumption reductions, “verified tires or retreads must be used on the drive and trailer positions, with EPA-verified steer tires, and all tires must be properly inflated according to the manufacturer’s specifications."
“The additional expansion of the voluntary SmartWay program plus the CARB and GHG rules for OEMs together are pointing the industry in the right direction for improved fuel efficiency,” contends Guy Walenga, director of engineering- commercial products & technologies for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “The goal, of course, is to reduce vehicle emissions for cleaner air and the side benefit is less fuel will get burned. It’s a win-win all around.”