|NHTSA Report Number DOT HS 807 805||January 1992|
An Evaluation of the Uniform Tire Quality Grading Standards and Other Tire Labeling Requirements
Sandra Weiss, Ph.D.
The Uniform Tire Quality Grading Standards (UTQGS) (575.104) were designed to assist consumers in making informed choices by requiring information be provided on passenger car tires about their relative performance in the areas of treadwear, traction, and temperature resistance. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 109, 117, and 119 require size, content, care, and certification information be molded into pneumatic tires and retreads. This study evaluates whether four groups of potential information users knew about, understood, and used the information. The sudy was based on telephone surveys of individuals who buy tires for their own vehicles, individuals who buy tires for fleets of vehicles, tire sellers, and tire repairers. The individual consumers had either bought tires six or less months prior to the contact (recent consumers) or planned a purchase withing two months of the contact (prospective consumers). The principal findings follow.
- Most consumers knew FMVSS, but not UTQGS, informaton is found on tires. Most sellers and repairers knew the location of both.
- When presented with multiple choice questions, most respondents in all groups chose the correct definition of temperature resistance rating and the relative ranking of two traction grades. Less than half the consumers choses the correct definition of traction rating.
- Prospective consumers rated significantly more UTQGS and FMVSS items important in influencing their tire choices than recent consumers (three UTQGS and eight FMVSS items vs one FMVSS item).
To aid consumers in making informed choices when purchasing passenger car tires, information about their relative performances in the areas of treadwear, traction, and temperature resistance is required on new pneumatic tires. The Uniform Tire Quality Grading Standards (UTQGS), Part 575.104 of the Consumer Information Regulations, set forth the grading conditions and procedures and labeling requirements that indicate the relative performances of passenger car tires
concerning treadwear, traction, and temperature resistance. The information must be permanently molded into the tire sidewalls, indelibly stamped on a label or labels affixed to the tire tread surface, and made available in consumer brochures. The UTQGS apply to all passenger car tires except deep tread, winter type snow tires, space-saver or temporary-use spare tires, and limited production tires. The definitions and grades for the UTQGS characteristics follow.
- Treadwear is the wear rate of a tire when tested under controlled conditions. The codes set forth in the UTQGS are two- or three- digit numbers representing a percentage of a standard value when a tire is tested in accordance with specified procedures. The higher the number, the better the treadwear.
- Traction is a tire's ability to stop on wet pavement under controlled conditions. The codes are one of the letters, "A," "B," or "C", with "A" signifying the highest traction coefficient.
- Temperature resistance is a tire's resistance to the generation of heat and its ability to dissipate heat when tested under controlled conditions. The codes are one of the letters "A," "B," or "C," with "A" signifying the highest level of performance.
Tire manufacturers test and grade their own tires according to procedures specified in the
The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) specify other labeling requirements similar to contents and care labels for new pneumatic passenger car tires (FMVSS 109), pneumatic retreaded tires (FMVSS 117), and new pneumatic tires for vehicles other than passenger cars (FMVSS 119). Standard 109 mandates that each passenger car tire have permanently molded into both sidewalls information regarding:
- maximum permissible inflation pressure,
- maximum load rating,
- cord material,
- number of plies in the sidewall and tread area,
- "tubeless" or "tube-type,"
- "radial," if appropriate,
- DOT certification symbol,
- manufacturer name or brand name and number.
In addition to Standard 109 requirements, Standard 117 requires each new retreaded tire have molded into its sidewalls the words "bias," or "bias belted" as applicable. In addition to Standard 109 requirements, Standard 119 mandates that each new pneumatic tire for vehicles other than passenger cars, namely, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, trailers, and motorcycles, have molded into both sidewalls the following information.
- speed restriction if less than 55 mph,
- regroovable if designed for regrooving,
- a letter designating load range rating.
Executive Order 12291, (February 1981) requires agencies to evaluate their existing regulations. The objectives of an evaluation are to determine the benefits of a regulation and to compare the regulation's effectiveness with the goals that may have been specified when the rule was initially promulgated.
The purpose of this report is to determine the extent to which tire labeling requirements are assisting individual and occupational consumers such as buyers of tires for fleets of vehicles, in making informed choices; assisting sales people in selecting tires appropriate for customer vehicles; and aiding repairers and retreaders in knowing if, when, and how to repair or retread tires.
To evaluate how the labeling information is understood and applied, four statistically representative groups of possible users of the information were surveyed by telephone. The groups were comprised of:
- consumers who buy tires for their privately owned passenger cars (n=509),
- individuals who purchase tires for fleets of passenger cars (n=100),
- individuals who sell tires for passenger cars (n = 108), and
- individuals who repair and/or retread tires for passenger cars (n=100).
Of the consumers who buy tires for their own vehicles, 369 had purchased tires less than six months before being interviewed (recent consumers) and 140 planned to purchase tires less than two months after being interviewed (potential consumers). The surveys were designed to
ascertain whether the members of the respondent groups:
- knew what information is molded into tires,
- understood the meaning of UTQGS terms and codes, and
- used tire labeling information when purchasing, selling, or repairing tires.
Knowledge of UTQGS Terms and Codes
- Seventy four percent of the individual consumers reported having heard of the treadwear rating; 22 percent of the individual consumers reported they would look for information about treadwear ratings on tires, 16 percent in brochures, and 5 percent on tags or labels attached to tires. (None of the percents relating to location of information can be totaled because some individuals knew information was available from more than one source.)
- Sixty five percent of the individual consumers reported having heard of the traction rating; 26 percent of the individual consumers reported they would look for information about traction ratings on tires, 12 percent in brochures, and 3 percent on tags or labels attached to tires.
- Thirty eight percent of the individual consumers reported having heard of the temperature resistance rating; 15 percent of the individual consumers reported they would look for information about temperature resistance ratings on tires, 8 percent in brochures, and 3 percent on tags or labels attached to tires.
- When presented with multiple choice questions regarding the definitions of traction and temperature resistance ratings, 43 and 64 percents of the individual consumers and 34 and 69 percents of the buyers for fleets chose the correct definitions.
- When presented with a multiple choice question regarding the relative ranking of a traction rating of "A" or "C," approximately 60 percent of both consumer groups chose the correct ranking.
- Seventy eight percent of the tire sales people and 87 percent of the repairers/retreaders chose the correct definition of temperature resistance rating; 84 percent of the tire sellers and 86 percent
of the repairers/retreaders chose the correct statement about the relative rankings of the traction code.
Knowledge of Where to Locate Information
- Of the individual consumers who reported they had heard of the UTQGS terms: 30 to 41 percent, depending on the item, reported they would look for information about it on tires, 18 to 23 percent in brochures and 5 to 7 percent on tags or labels attached to tires.
- Of the individual consumers who reported they had heard of the FMVSS terms relating to new pneumatic tires for passenger cars, 67 to 97 percent, depending on the item, reported they would look for information about it on tires.
- Depending on the item, 78 to 100 percent of the tire sellers and tire repairers/retreaders reported that information about all UTQGS and most FMVSS items (tube type/tubeless, radial, cord material, number of plies, speed restriction, maximum load range rating, and DOT certification) can be found on tires.
Importance and Use of Tire Information
- More than 50 percent of the surveyed potential consumers rated information about all three UTQGS items important in tire purchase decisions (treadwear rating - 83 percent, traction rating - 79 percent, and temperature resistance rating - 54 percent).
- Less than 50 percent of the surveyed recent consumers rated information about the UTQGS items important in influencing their last tire purchase decision (treadwear rating - 29 percent, traction rating - 27 percent, and temperature resistance rating - 12 percent).
- More than 50 percent of the potential consumers rated information about 10 FMVSS items important in tire purchase decisions (radial, belt and tire body material, number of plies, manufacturer, speed restriction, maximum load rating, load range, tube type/tubeless, and DOT certification). The percents ranged from 52 percent for load range rating (information not required on new pneumatic tires for passenger cars) to 83 percent for radial.
- More than 50 percent of the recent consumers rated information about one FMVSS item important in influencing their last tire purchase decision (radial - 57 percent).
- More than 50 percent of the buyers for fleets rated information about two UTQGS items (treadwear and traction ratings) and most of the same FMVSS items as the potential consumers, as being important in tire purchase decisions.
- Before buying tires, 72 percent of the recent consumers reported examining the old tires already on their vehicles for information to help in purchase decisions. Seventy-two percent of recent consumers also reported looking at tires identical to the ones they were about to purchase before they were put on their cars.
- More than 50 percent of the tire sellers perceived information about two UTQGS items (treadwear - 59 percent and traction - 57 percent), and two FMVSS items (radial - 89 percent and tubeless/tube type - 56 percent) as being important to consumers.
- More than 50 percent of the tire sellers reported never advertising information about two UTQGS ratings (traction and temperature resistance) or the fact a tire is DOT certified, and
always advertising a tire's manufacturer or brand name and if a tire is radial.
- More than 50 percent of the tire repairers/retreaders considered information about three of the FMVSS items important in the repair of tires. The three FMVSS items were tire body material, maximum load rating, and speed restrictions.
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