I recently learned that some inexpensive Chinese tires have obtained SmartWay certification by the EPA. This act illustrates that politicians and science don’t mix. The lack of scientific knowledge always does them in. In the case of the SmartWay program, I’ve always thought it was initiated with the best intent by people who wouldn’t understand scientific principle if it hit them in the face. The idea is sound, but the execution is not. You cannot trust some corporations to do their own unbiased testing.
Most corporations are honest, but they are staffed by humans who sometimes have sufficient ambition and they want to get ahead at all costs. This is why organizations like the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) play such a vital role in our industry. Industry experts in these organizations develop scientific tests so apples can be compared to apples.
SmartWay was initiated with the premise that suppliers would obtain credible information on their products using standardized testing techniques approved by organizations like the SAE and the TMC. I suspect most suppliers who want to maintain their good reputations utilize these tests and procedures. Others may not. If the EPA politicos, who are supposed to oversee the SmartWay program, ever checked the data, do you think they would understand the testing protocol used? I don’t think they check, and I’m not certain they even know what testing protocol is all about.
Now, we have several SmartWay-approved products of questionable merit. Did they run the proper tests? Did they fudge the data? Who knows? Until this all gets sorted out, the U.S. tire industry, which took years to build credibility, will be in complete disarray.
The new Chinese tire suppliers even undercut more established Chinese tire manufacturers. If you are a possible consumer of these cheaper tires, you should test them thoroughly before considering large purchases for your operations. Early adapters who choose to purchase these tires on price alone might be in for future disappointments.
Let me give you another example. Ethanol was originally approved as an alternate fuel because it could be easily produced from corn, and it got around the energy storage issues that plague solar and wind power. From the start, scientists told the politicians that corn-based ethanol was at best only a stop-gap solution since it gave worse fuel economy, created corrosion problems, and produced more cradle-to-grave CO2 emissions. Somehow, none of this was adequately transmitted to corn-based producers who, with the help of “Big Agriculture,” built a huge, profitable industry around a fuel with serious shortcomings.
Now this industry lobbies its heart out to try to make us use more corn-based ethanol while we consumers must suffer the consequences. Have you tried to purchase beef lately? How many carburetors have you had to rebuild because corrosion interrupted proper fuel flow in the jets? I’ve done at least three, and I’m not done yet. But Big Ag says I don’t have a problem. Do you think I can get Big Ag to come help me rebuild my carburetors? I don’t think so.
If you’re serious about the sustainability of your operation, take the time to familiarize yourself with scientifically sound testing methods such as those put forth in the TMC’s Recommended Practices manual. Good, sound science will trump politics every day of the week. Politics is for power brokers while science is for those who seek the truth.
Let’s look at racers. Racers are faced with one task—to win. They test every day, every hour that they can so they can be on top of the latest technology and how to use it. Truck fleet operators should take the same approach.