New NACFE Confidence Report demonstrates benefits of low rolling resistance tires

A new Confidence Report from the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) has found there are significant fuel economy benefits available by running low rolling resistance (LRR) tires.

The report suggests the typical up-front purchase price of a tire is only about four cents per mile, however the tires can contribute to anywhere between 14 and 28 cents per mile in fuel costs.

“Clearly, the tire choice has a huge impact on a fleet’s fuel expenditures and ultimately its bottom line,” NACFE concluded.

Key findings of the report included:

  • LRR tires, whether in dual or wide-base configuration, will save significant amounts of fuel compared to tires that are not designed for rolling resistance;
  • Tire configuration should be assessed based on total cost of ownership, including fuel consumption;
  • And more fleets are recognizing the benefits of LRR tires outweigh the challenges.

“Low rolling resistance tires, whether in dual or wide-base configurations, are proven to save fleets fuel and therefore have a good case for adoption,” said Mike Roeth, operation lead, trucking efficiency with NACFE.

Discussing the report with trade press editors this afternoon, Roeth reiterated it’s clear there are significant benefits to choosing LRR tires.

“Tires have a much bigger effect on overall fuel efficiency than most people believe,” he said. “Traditionally fleets have looked at purchase price and wear; we’re highly suggesting you include fuel savings in any calculations.”

For the purposes of the study, LRR tires were defined as any dual or wide-base single tire that meets the criteria set out by the US EPA Smartway program.

Within 14 large fleets surveyed by NACFE, LRR tires now comprise more than 80% of duals deployed.
Within 14 large fleets surveyed by NACFE, LRR tires now comprise more than 80% of duals deployed.

This has become a crowded list, Roeth acknowledged, and he suggested fleets keep in mind that not all Smartway tires are equal.

“One of the things we have found is that the Smartway list has kind of exploded over the last four to six months,” Roeth said. “A lot of tires have been approved on the Smartway list that are quite low in price and we wonder about their total cost of operation, meaning they could possibly wear a lot quicker and they could cost less and just not have the ruggedness against damage.”

Some manufacturers, however, have put some advanced engineering into their LRR tires.

“They are using some pretty extensive rubber chemical blends,” he said of the better tires. “Some of these guys have up to three to five different materials being blended, with different sections of the tire made from different rubber compounds to help rolling resistance and wear and traction, so it’s probably, you get what you pay for.”

It’s also worth considering there’s a significant performance variance between LRR tires, with a new generation of high-performance tires emerging within the LRR category.

Roeth said the cost differential between LRR and non-LRR tires has generally narrowed. He also said the study found there appeared to be no ill effects on traction.

“The perception of traction issues and driver acceptance is worse than reality,” Roeth said. “It’s hard to measure these items but we continue to hear these tires are performing better on traction and drivers are accepting them.”

Adoption of LRR tires has steadily increased, comprising more than 80% of duals operated by 14 large fleets surveyed. The use of wide-base single tires has trailed off somewhat among these fleets, Roeth noted, as the performance gap between singles and LRR duals has narrowed.

“We’re not sure that’s going to be widespread, but it’s a point of note,” he said.

The study also found LRR tires deliver their lowest rolling resistance shortly before removal, when the tread is at its shallowest. While it’s important to pull the tires before they become unsafe to run, Roeth also suggested fleets maximize their mileage before removal.

“The sweetest spot is right before you remove them; as the tire wears, the fuel efficiency improves,” he said. “Use all the tire, it makes sense from a wear standpoint. Of course, pull the tire when it needs to be pulled for safety, but use it all because its better fuel efficiency is in the latter part of its life.”

NACFE has developed tools and recommendations for fleets looking to improve fuel efficiency through the use of low rolling resistance tires. The full report and its associated tools can be downloaded from This is the sixth Trucking Efficiency Confidence Report NACRE has issued to date, and they are all available free of charge online.


James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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