National Fleet: Labelling the biggest impact on the fleet tyre market in years
With the EU tyre labelling laws effect up on us, the new legislation marks one of the biggest changes to legislation affecting fleet tyre sales in recent years and will impact upon the whole tyre industry.
According National Fleet, which has become increasingly active in the fleet tyre sector over the years, the introduction of these laws has generally been viewed positively by tyre manufacturers and retailers. Their view is that the new labelling laws help customers become better informed and will guide them towards safer, more fuel efficient tyres. However the response from a number of manufacturers has noted that other key performance features, such as durability, capability in winter conditions and resistance to aquaplaning are not rated and therefore the new labels may not provide the whole picture.
Kevin Parker, group managing director, Axle Group Holdings, which includes National Fleet (UK fleet service provider), Viking (tyre and equipment wholesaler) as well as fast-fit retail chain, National Tyres and Autocare commented: “In my experience our fleet customers have an excellent knowledge about tyres and their Fleet requirements. The new labelling will bring better understanding about the three areas rated, allowing a greater degree of transparency and giving fleet managers the opportunity to make like-for-like comparisons.”
“However, while the new label gives useful information in regards to noise, fuel efficiency and wet braking performance, it neglects to rate other important criteria such as dry braking, road handling and longevity. Winter conditions are also not taken into consideration.”
While supportive, national highlights the gaps in the currently labelling regimen. Most premium brand manufacturers spend a great deal of time and resources developing tyres which perform well in a wide range of areas, not just those shown on the new labels. Manufacturers test over 50 performance criteria during development and trade magazines routinely measure 20 or more characteristics during their review process. So while the new labelling rules go some way in providing useful information to fleet customers, the thinking is that there are other key attributes which are not rated:
“When we look at the statistics relating to road accidents it’s clear to see the importance of such attributes. For example, Michelin research observes that 25 per cent of accidents occur on bends, which would suggest that road handling is an extremely important characteristic but one which is ignored by the label. Indeed, 70 per cent of accidents occur on dry roads, perhaps when drivers take less care or are driving at greater speeds, which would indicate that dry braking performance is another pivotal area worth consideration.“
There is also the issue of tyre longevity, a key factor for any fleet manager to consider. Parker explained “Buying a longer lasting tyre can give greater mileage and thereby save money in the longer term. Without these vital areas being considered, Fleet customers may not be getting the complete picture.”
National fleet representatives continued: “It’s also worth noting that tyre characteristics can often conflict with one another posing a compromise for manufacturers who must balance each area to produce the best overall result. For example, lowering a tyre’s rolling resistance for a more fuel efficient ride tends to increase the tyre’s wet braking distances as the tyre is harder and less able to grip on wet surfaces.” Kevin Parker added: “This is quite a challenge for tyre manufacturers aiming to perform well in all areas. Taking into account the many other attributes, it is an extremely complex process.”
“Understandably, some characteristics will be more important than others depending on the customer’s perspective. Fleet drivers will be more conscious of the safety and performance elements such as wet braking distances, road handling and dry braking. Whereas Fleet operators will be looking at the bigger picture in terms of value for money so fuel efficiency and longevity will be critical as well as safety relating to the organisation’s duty of care to its employees and minimising potential for accidents and costly repairs to vehicles. With only three areas shown on the new EU labels, they cannot be regarded as a definitive assessment of a tyre’s quality and performance.”
According to Parker, National Fleet believes the new EU labels are “an excellent start to de-mystifying the tyre purchasing process, ensuring clear and independent information is available to customers specifically for wet grip, fuel efficiency and noise emissions.” However the company also understands that “the lack of inclusion of other performances indicators means that there is still some way to go in providing a fuller picture to customers.”