How truck tyre manufacturers are responding to labelling
With European tyre labelling set to become mandatory on truck tyres in a matter of weeks, Tyres & Accessories published some 20 pages of in-depth coverage on what this all means for the market in last month’s August edition. Nevertheless we barely scratched the surface and one has to admit that the majority of tyre labelling reporting leans towards the passenger car side of things.
Of course truck and bus operators look for quite different things compared with consumers. And while the received wisdom in the passenger car segment seems to be that if you have to prioritise anything in terms of labelling it should be wet grip over rolling resistance. However, with many more tyres on the ground and with larger contact patches on each – not to mention the traction effects of heavier loads – this isn’t the case when it comes to commercial vehicles. For them these differences as well as the crippling cost of fuel mean that rolling resistance performance has become a real factor for fleets. The additional noise performance measure is – some would say – even more irrelevant to the end user of truck tyres than their passenger car compatriots. As Tyres & Accessories alluded to in last month’s labelling special feature, what difference does noise performance on a label make to someone operating trucks in a noisy construction environment for example?
The important part of what this all means, is that commercial vehicle tyre makers are designing their tyres with somewhat different performance goals in mind (compared with the passenger car tyre sector) and – crucially – presenting their representing their respective product narratives in considerably different ways.
As a result the first company off the mark (as far as communicating top labelling grades is concerned) is also different. In the passenger car side of things, Pirelli stole a march by unveiling market-ready AA tyres at the June’s Essen show. A couple of weeks later Michelin announced that its car tyre range had been scoring As (although not double AAs) since 2010.
Goodyear truck tyres A graded since 2010
In the truck tyre segment it is Goodyear Dunlop that has become the first company to make a comparable claim, with the tyre manufacturer releasing information suggesting that its Goodyear-branded products have been running at levels comparable with the label’s A-grade for rolling resistance/fuel efficiency also since 2010.
According to the company, the introduction of the EU tyre label has not only initiated a new methodology for measuring tyre performance, it has also confirmed a long-standing tradition of “excellence in product development at Goodyear.” Perhaps the best example of this is the Goodyear LHT II trailer tyre, carrying an EU label grade of A in fuel efficiency in two sizes LHT II sizes385/55R22.5 and 435/50R19.5. This product has been on the market since 2010.
In addition new Marathon LHS II + steer tyre and the Regional RHT II trailer tyre have reportedly attained B ratings in both fuel efficiency and wet grip in numerous sizes LHS II + sizes (295/80R22.5 HL, 315/70R22.5 HL and 315/80R22.5 HL) and RHT II sizes (385/65R22.5, 385/55R22.5, 425/65R22.5, 445/65R22.5, 285/70R19.5).
The RHS II regional steer tyre, has achieved a C for fuel efficiency and an A for braking performance on wet roads in one size and BB in another RHS II size with BB in 385/65R22.5 HL and CA in 315/80R22.5. Overall, around 50 per cent of current Goodyear and Dunlop truck tyres score a CC or better.
The Association of the German Rubber Industry describes tyres with CC and higher as very good and tyres with AC – AA and CA – AA as “extraordinary tyres of very high quality.”
“The introduction our EU tyre label grades illustrates Goodyear’s long-term commitment to offer customers the highest levels of performance – particularly in terms of fuel economy,“ said Boris Stevanovic, marketing director Truck Tires, Goodyear Dunlop EMEA. “We are proud of the label grades of our tyres. The fact that in some cases we have offered these performance levels for years proves once again our commitment to our customers’ needs in providing tyres that cut fuel consumption and have excellent wet braking capabilities. However there are many other performance areas that we concentrate on; not least mileage, retreadability and durability, to ensure that our tyres provide excellent value for money.”
But what does labelling mean for manufacturers?
Goodyear Dunlop representatives go as far as describing the introduction the label as nothing short of a revolution: “The EU Tyre Label is the biggest change to the industry and the way tyres are sold in 50 years. In recognition of this, Goodyear Dunlop started working with customers and partners back in March to help raise awareness and educate around the tyre label – providing online and face-to-face training as well as a range of information and point-of-sale collateral.
“Undoubtedly the introduction of the label from 1 November will help the commercial road transport sector reduce emissions and improve efficiency. This was a key issue we raised at our Driving Fleet Fuel Efficiency Symposium back in January, where we hosted more than 170 of Europe’s top commercial fleet representatives. At the event we released our industry report, Driving fleet fuel efficiency: The Road to 2020, where we urged policy makers to consider offering incentives to those fleet operators who invest in aerodynamic improvements or purchase tyres that achieve A, B, C grades in both rolling resistance and wet grip.
“We at Goodyear Dunlop are convinced that tyre labelling will make operators more aware of the significance of tyres to the overall fuel economy of trucks, which will not only save the industry money but will also help reduce CO2 emissions.”
To take another perspective, Hankook believes that, though simplistic, the labelling system adopted by the tyre industry (which is of course very similar to the energy rating labels applied to white goods) offers consumers “unbiased, factual information” to aid a more informed perception of a tyre’s performance, quality and value prior to purchase.
For its part Pirelli believes it will help focus upon those factors listed on the label, specifically rolling resistance. However there is also a word of caution: “We must all remember that the performances of a tyre and for us a truck tyre are complex and often conflicting. Mileage for example, is a hard to measure number, especially with the vast variety of conditions applications involved.”
Continental points out that the EU tyre label has different effects on different parties involved with the truck business. It offers truck operators, for example, “some standardised information and a certain level of transparency with regard to truck tyre performance that will enable them to compare different tyres objectively.”
However, Conti also draws attention to the fact that in certain applications (construction, winter), the label will be of little relevance as other tyre performance criteria such as durability, retreadability or perhaps even mileage might be more important to the running costs and safety of a fleet.
At the large national/international fleet end of the spectrum, Continental representatives remind us that as these already look in detail at tyre performance and its impact on their operations when tendering for tyre business and will often run their own performance tests, so the impact of the label on them is likely to be minimal. However, that is not to say that it won’t help raise awareness amongst smaller regional fleets of the performance differences between tyres and assist in getting the long-term cost benefit argument for premium tyre across.
The second group of truck segment stakeholders likely to be influenced by the label are service providers. As far as Continental is concerned, the new EU tyre label regulation means service providers will have to ensure they have the systems/processes to cope with managing all the label values for all the truck, bus and coach tyre brands they stock and sell.
You cannot necessarily draw a causal link between the launch of new products and the introduction of labelling. And you certainly cannot say that tyre manufacturers are designing tyres in order to meet labelling criteria only. However, many new products have been launch in the year or so running up to the launch of labelling and it is unlikely that this has happened without serious consideration of the label.
Hankook recently launched the AH22+ steer axle tyre in 245/70R17.5, 11R22.5, 12R22.5, 295/80R22.5, 315/80R22.5, 315/70R22.5. According to the company, the AH22+ tyre has improved performance and durability benefits compared to the AH22 which it replaces.
The AH22+ also has allows for re-grooving as either a steer pattern to be utilised on second steer/lift axles or as a drive pattern. Hankook reports that this design was developed in response to requests from fleet operators who are reluctant to fit regrooved steer type patterns to drive axles.
Hankook has also recently launched a 275/70R22.5 TL10 E cube tyre. This has been designed with the requirements of the vehicle logistics industry in mind and specifically for fitment to car and van transporters. The TL10 E cube tyre has been designed to carry an increased load capacity up to 3,550kg, compared to a typical 275/70R22.5 tyre which carries a maximum load of 3.150kg. Fitment of the new 275/70R22.5 TL10 E cube tyre gives the fleet operator the benefit of an increased load carrying capability of 2,100kg across three axles, when fitted in single tyre format.
Pirelli first launched its :01 range for regional operations (R:01) in 2010 and then followed up in 2011/12 with highway applications (H:01). Along with the new semi-trailer product, the ST:01, Pirelli have also extended the :01 family with W:01 for Winter and G:01 for the tough on/off sector.
According to the company, fleets have been impressed with their resultant mileages and performance when analysed against the initial cost of the tyre. The higher residual value of the new premium quality casing is also said to have proved important with full life thinking being adopted more frequently as recent costs have increased. Pirelli’s answer involves both the new Pirelli :01 product line and it’s fit with Pirelli Novateck retreads.
Most recently Pirelli rolled out the :01 line for 19.5 and 17.5-inch trailer (ST:01) fitments.
Continental has taken time to adapt its product range and retread offering, explaining that servicing the UK commercial vehicle market is a complex task. And one that involves the right tyres, picked and suited to the right job.
During the last year Continental has extended its ContiRe retread range of tyres to cover key sizes in the UK and Irish markets. As part of ContiLifeCycle retread tyres can offer truck operators significant cost savings over an all-new fitment policy as well as providing environmental benefits due to the re-use of the tyre casing.
Continental also launched XL versions of its best-selling HSR2 tyre, meaning the tyres now boasts an axle load rating of up to 10 tons. These tyres are engineered to accommodate forthcoming Euro-6 generation trucks, which are expected to be heavier as they have more complex exhaust after-treatment systems. The HSR2 XL is available in sizes 385/65 R 22.5, 315/70 R 22.5 and 315/80 R 22.5.
According to the manufacturer, the new XL versions feature a much stiffer structure, further reductions in rolling resistance and a considerably longer life.
For trailers, the new HTR2 in 385/55 R 22.5 size represents a new development for use on volume-optimized trailers and semi-trailers. A 35mm gain in design height is said to be possible thanks to a new 55 cross-section for the special HTR2 trailer tyre. This extra cargo area height delivers a competitive advantage for all operators running double-deck trailers or skeletal trailers for container transport.
Continental has also introduced a brand new visual alignment indicator on its long distance tyres which will allow operators to recognise more easily incorrect wheel alignment on trucks and trailers without the use of expensive electronic measuring systems. Excessive positive or negative camber angles or too much toe-in or toe-out can cause tyres to wear unevenly, decreasing tyre life, and can lead to increased fuel consumption. The new indicators offer early detection of uneven tyre wear and a simple visual check can therefore be carried out as part of a routine maintenance inspection to monitor the wear of each individual tyre.
GiTi’s latest product additions see the company add the GAR820 steer axle pattern to its portfolio. Created to respond to the fast development of modern medium-sized trucks increased requirements for comfort, noise, wet and dry handling and excellent wear performance. Initially available in size 215/75R17.5, four other main sizes in the 17.5 segment will come to market by 2013, namely the 205/75R17.5, 225/75R17.5, 235/75R17.5 and 245/70R17.5. The GAR820 carries M+S marking.
GDL617 drive axle pattern: A new generation long haul, high mileage M+S marked pattern for the drive axle position. Features a new non directional and compact tread design with multi sipe arrangement featuring the latest cool running compound technology to provide extended mileage and regular wear combined with excellent traction in both dry and wet conditions. Available initially in two sizes – 315/80R22.5 and 315/60R22.5 – with 315/70R22.5, 295/60R22.5 and 295/80R22.5 in development.
There have been numerous other additions to the market in recent months, additions for which labelling has – in all probability – been an important consideration. To find out more about what is on offer from where, keep reading this month’s truck tyre feature.