From 1st November 2012, new tyres sold in the European Union will be classified in a similar way to household goods. All cars, 4x4s, SUVs, vans and trucks (with certain exceptions*) are subject to the new rules. The legislation is aimed at improving road safety, providing consumers with more detailed information about the tyres they are buying, and reducing vehicles' fuel consumption and environmental impact.
After the above date, tyre retailers have a legal obligation to inform you of tyres' official grading before or during a sale. Labelling information will be located in the form of a sticker on the sidewall of the tyre itself and on the accompanying invoice, and will be divided into three parts denoting its fuel efficiency, braking performance on wet roads, and the noise it generates.
The upper left section of the chart grades the tyre's energy efficiency from A to G by measuring its "rolling resistance". Simply put, rolling resistance is the amount of friction (drag) affecting tyres – the greater the friction whilst the tyres are in motion, the more energy is wasted.
Tyres that are in good condition reduce the amount of energy required by your vehicle. Buying and maintaining good-quality tyres, therefore, helps your car or van to achieve smaller fuel consumption and produce less CO2. The difference in fuel economy and carbon emissions between "A" and "G" rated tyres can be as much as 7.5%.
The second item of information on the label, located to the right of the tyre's fuel efficiency rating, is its braking performance in wet conditions.
The grading of tyres is assessed through measuring a test car's stopping distance when travelling at 50mph (80km/h) on a wet road. The difference in stopping distances between "A" and "F" rated tyres can be anything up to 30%.
Standard passenger cars with "F" standard tyres may come to a halt up to 18 metres (four car lengths) after those fitted with "A" grade versions. As these figures indicate, good-quality tyres have a significant impact on road safety.
The lower segment denotes the exterior noise levels produced by the tyres when the car is in motion. A number of factors, such as tyre width and tread depth, affect the amount of sound made by tyres. Better quality tyres result in less noise pollution for road users, as well as causing less annoyance and potential irritation to people who live or work alongside busy roads. A noise level that is consistently above 80 decibels (dB) can have negative consequences for aural health.
In addition to the precise amount of noise produced by the tyres, the graphic on the label shows how the figure corresponds to the regulations on acceptable tyre noise limits that will be introduced in 2016. One black sound wave out of three means the tyre produces 3dB or less than the future EU limit; two waves indicate that these tyres are just within the future limit; and three waves shows that the tyre's noise level is above the future limit but is within the current (less stringent) maximum.
The objective of the current legislation is to assure a minimum standard of tyre quality that improves road safety and energy efficiency whilst reducing noise pollution. The labelling of tyres is a simple way for car, SUV, van and truck drivers to ensure that any tyres they buy will perform well on the road.
*Exemptions include tyres made for cars built before 1st October 1990, re-treated tyres, motorcycle tyres, racing/sportscar tyres, studded tyres, spare tyres, vintage car tyres, and professional off-road tyres.