One of the complaints about low rolling resistance tires it that they compromise traction, and many do. However, premium tire manufacturers are getting better at improving fuel economy without compromising grip.

“At the beginning of the SmartWay program, a lot of companies went to solid shoulders on the tires, because that minimizes the rubber movement and flexing, which improves rolling resistance,” explains Brian Buckham, general manager, commercial marketing with Goodyear. “And on long-haul type vehicles, you kind of want that. You want more of a solid shoulder so you don’t have any irregular wear – you can have nice even wear and extend the tire’s life. But one of the disadvantages of a solid shoulder is you’re giving up a perception of traction, because you don’t have that open shoulder slot – a biting edge as you drive through snow. The EPA has gotten some complaints from fleets that they’d gone too far on fuel and started to suffer in traction.

“We try very hard not to sacrifice the traction with improvements in rolling resistance and we’re doing that with the tread design itself. We have, in some of our current products, we don’t have a solid shoulder in them now, but on the internal three ribs they’re very heavily siped or bladed, so we don’t see that big of a sacrifice in traction.”

One thing fleets can do to ensure they get the best traction possible out of fuel-efficient, low rolling resistance tires is to install new rubber in the fall. That way the tread is deepest during that first winter season.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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