What do Bigstone, Blacklion and Jinxin have in common? Haven’t heard of’em? Okay, how about Linglong, Long March and Luckyear? Still not sure? Each of the companies named above have at least one SmartWay-verified tire available in the North American market. And I didn’t even make it past the Ls yet.

There are now 150 tire manufacturers with a SmartWay-verified tire. I counted. Then, I had assistant editor Sonia Straface count as well – just in case I missed any. You can see the full list here. This has become a cluttered market, wouldn’t you say? Has the SmartWay program simplified the tire selection process one bit? I’d argue not.

Sure, the SmartWay list is a good place to start if you’re looking for a low rolling resistance tire, but your research should begin – not end – there. It’s important to understand that SmartWay verifies only the rolling resistance of tires submitted to the program – and nothing more. So forget any notion that a SmartWay tire is a good tire. If a company wanted to come to market with a racing slick, it could get that tire SmartWay-verified with little trouble – at the obvious expense of traction and wear life.

Brian Buckham, general manager, commercial marketing with Goodyear and I had a good chat about this topic the other day. He pointed out a tire manufacturer could submit a tire to the SmartWay program with 18/32nds tread depth and it would get the same pass or fail grade from the EPA that a tire with 30/32nds tread depth would get.

“You, the customer, would get ripped off because you’re losing 14/32nds of tread rubber,” he said.

SmartWay, at this time, does not differentiate between tires that just barely slide in underneath the program’s rolling resistance thresholds, and others that exceed the requirements with rolling resistance to spare. Goodyear, for example, has a SmartWay tire and then it has what it internally describes as a ‘Super SmartWay’ tire with 15% less rolling resistance than its regular SmartWay tire.

So all this is to say, don’t go looking for the SmartWay decal and assume you’re getting a decent tire. I want to kill any notion that a SmartWay tire is by default a good tire. The SW logo tire manufacturers get to use once they’ve met the program’s rolling resistance requirements may be the same, but that’s not to say these tires will perform the same. Not all SmartWay tires are created equal – some are smarter than others. I go into this topic in much more detail in the February issues of Truck News and Truck West, out next week.

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 james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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