By John Stone

It is disappointing to see that the main concern of the tyre retailers in Europe ‘still’ is to sell tyres at the highest price possible without bothering to explain the merits of tyre labels

Over the past seven years since tyre labelling legislation was first introduced in Europe, a great deal of aggressively contested debate has taken place concerning the various merits of the label such as where it should be placed on a tyre and whether some retail dealers actually take it seriously and make a point of explaining the label rating to their customers.

Other leading questions being continuously discussed include whether the label is stringent enough in its measures and the discord has become so strong over the years that, fifteen months ago, in direct response to a demand for reform across all European countries, the European Commission (EU) announced a proposal to introduce new regulation adjustments to the label in order to monitor additional levels of fuel efficiency, safety and the reduction of road noise to provide quieter, cleaner and even safer tyres.

New rulings & current position

In due course, these new proposals were implemented in September 2018 following several slight amendments to the original adjustments so that today’s current labels now also incorporate appropriate information on tyre grip on wintery road conditions such as snow and ice. At the same time, the EU gave notice of its intention to also adjust the labelling content further in the future to include wear and mileage performance ratings once suitable testing equipment and methods have been developed and approved.

The EU has also suggested the future obligation for all tyres to be officially registered for sale in a tyre dealer’s product database. However, in my opinion, the most interesting new ruling involves where the label is displayed on a tyre and the demand is that it must be in a position where it is clearly visible on a tyre to ensure it can be seen when a customer is inspecting a tyre. Moreover, there has to be even more clear regulation surrounding the sale of tyres online. Not content with targeting new truck tyres, the EU has recently turned its attention to retreaded TBR tyres and again relevant labels will become compulsory in due course when more suitable measuring facilities have been developed for testing.

It is generally considered that all these new decisions on tyre labelling in the future are genuinely intended to further improve labels creditability in the market sector; but it is also interesting to note that some people from the environmentalist division are still disappointed as they feel the changes do not go far enough to protect the environment. They propose that tyre distributors in Europe should be allowed to display the tyre label information near to where a tyre is stored as opposed to being attached to a tyre.

So that is the current position with regards to the European tyre labelling; but I would not be surprised at all if the debate continues further in the industry and results in even more changes as it would be true to say that tyre label information is like a ‘never ending circle’ as really there is no conclusion to just how far information can go to effectively measure a tyre’s suitability in terms of safety to be fitted to a vehicle.

Is label accepted as safety measure?

However, I feel I must add that, to me the main problem is not what is actually displayed on a tyre but whether a label is taken notice of and recognised as a safety measure by both tyre retailers and customers. The reason: Over the past twelve months on my travels throughout Europe as a tyre journalist, I have been regularly disappointed about the varying degrees of inconsistency by sales staff and indeed drivers as ‘still’ the main concern is to sell a tyre at the highest price possible without having to bother to explain the merits of tyre labels. Let’s be honest, only part of the blame for this appalling situation can be laid at the door of tyre sales staff as in all the European countries the replacement of a worn tyre is still viewed as an expensive attack on their finances and quite simply – ‘a distress purchase’. This lack of interest does seem to be slowly improving but cries out for even more strong marketing and promotional presentation in terms of tyre safety.

The writer, Rubber Asia’s European Representative, is an international tyre and rubber journalist based in the UK