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EU tire label policing

David O’Donnell, Continental’s head of R&D for passenger and light truck tires, has called for better policing of the EU tire label ratings

by Graham Heeps

 

David O’Donnell, Continental’s head of R&D for passenger and light truck tires, has called for better policing of the EU tire label ratings amid claims that not all tire manufacturers are playing fair. Responsibility for checking the published ratings currently rests with individual countries, but O’Donnell is disappointed at what he sees as insufficient action in this area, leading to potential abuses of the system.

“If you’re going to make a regulation, then you should check whether or not it’s being adhered to,” he argues. “We don’t see much of that globally at the moment. [As a result] it can provide a platform to companies who don’t have the highest level of technical ability printing a label on the tire that misleads the customer in the direction of safety. That’s something we have to be very careful of as an industry.”

O’Donnell is frustrated that, having invested heavily in technology – notably to move both sides of the target conflict between wet grip and rolling resistance to a higher performance level – “others are able to bring their material into the European Union without the same restrictions,” putting the likes of Conti at a competitive disadvantage.

“It’s not a fair approach,” he continues. “We’ve built AIBA, where we can eliminate the environmental influences [in wet grip testing]. We’ve done measurements on tires from many different manufacturers and we see a clear trend: premium manufacturers are largely behaving themselves, but if you go to the low-cost level, it’s a nightmare. Some are claiming it’s an A tire for wet grip when in our opinion it’s dangerous on the road. As the tire industry, we can’t steer [the policing] – the regulators need to be advertising what’s happening and blocking the tires if they’re effectively dangerous because otherwise they’re giving consumers a level of comfort that’s simply not there.”

In common with others in the industry, O’Donnell would like to see different international label standards come together.

“Globally we are questioning with legislators how sensible it is to have slight variations from country to country,” he says. “It’s not helping the consumer and it’s certainly not helping us, because we have to do multiple developments and tests to get approvals, which are ultimately reflected in the cost of the product. Sustainability in that sense is not being supported, so we’d prefer one standard.”

More from David O’Donnell in the March edition of Tire Technology International, available soon

 

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