Responsible Purchasing Network

Tires: Overview

Welcome to the Responsible Purchasing Guide for Light-Duty Tires and Wheel Weights. This Guide provides information and recommendations on responsible purchasing, use, and disposal of tires and wheel weights with emphasis on low rolling resistance (LRR) tires, retread tires, and lead-free wheel weights.

Below we provide an overview of each section of the Guide: Social & Environmental Issues; Best Practices; Cost, Quality, & Supply; Policies; Specifications; Standards; Products; Handy Facts; Definitions; and Credits & Endnotes.

(Presentations from the RPN webinar - Light-Duty Tires and Wheel Weights can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.)

Social & Environmental Issues

The social & environmental issues section discusses the production, use, and disposal of tires and wheel weights. Turning the wheels consumes between 10 and 20 percent of the energy created in a vehicle engine, one-third of which is lost due to rolling resistance. The manufacture of a new light-duty tire requires 7 to 8 gallons of oil. In 2003, 230 million waste tires in the United States were absorbed into the scrap tire market and another 60 million tires were disposed of in landfills and other locations. Light-duty vehicles in the U.S. have an average of 4.5 ounces of lead clipped onto tires for wheel balancing. Around 2,000 tons of lead wheel weights falls onto U.S. roadways every year as wheel weights fall from vehicle tires.

Best Practices

The best practices section discusses how responsible tire and wheel weight management can be achieved by forming a team, compiling and tracking data, setting goals and passing a policy, and improving practices. Best practices address the procurement, use, and disposal of tires and wheel weights and are the foundation of a responsible tire program. These best practices can be integrated into broader green fleet programs, thereby achieving efficiencies and maximizing effectiveness.

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Cost, Quality, & Supply

The cost, quality, & supply section discusses how LRR tires, retread tires, and lead-free wheel weights are cost effective, perform as well as conventional products, and are available across the country. LRR tires come standard on most new vehicles but require extra effort to obtain in the replacement tire market. Although LRR tires may cost $5 to $12 more per set of four at the point of purchase than low-end conventional tires of similar size, they can save up to $36 per year in fuel costs. The purchase price of retread tires is equivalent to low cost conventional tires. Studies show that both LRR and retread tires perform as well as conventional tires. Forty-seven states currently have vendors that sell retread tires for light-duty trucks, and vendors in nine states sell retreads for cars. Lead-free wheel weights are just as effective as lead wheel weights. Several companies in the United States produce lead-free wheel weights, largely due to demand from leading institutional buyers like King County, WA and the State of Maine.


The policies section contains over twenty sample policies from leading institutions. A responsible tire procurement policy establishes official targets and responsibilities for tire and wheel weight procurement, use, and disposal. The policy can establish a training program for purchasers, maintenance staff, and drivers to help them understand the importance of the goals and practices included in the policy. The policy should include a system for tracking and reporting on progress toward the stated goals. A responsible tire procurement policy can be a stand-alone policy or can be integrated into an organization’s broader green fleet policy.


The specifications section contains more than a dozen bid and contract documents for LRR and retread tires and lead-free wheel weights. These specifications may require that bidders identify the rolling resistance coefficient (RRC) of their tires and identify an RRC threshold for qualified tires. Specs for retread tires may require bidders to have a quality control program, to be members of reputable tire industry trade groups, and to conform to federal standards and specifications. Wheel weight specs may request information on lead-free alternatives. Specs for tires and wheel weights may also include language requiring bidders to collect and properly recycle or dispose of products at the end of their useful life.


The standards section discusses standards and test procedures for LRR and retread tires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets overall safety and performance standards for tires. There is no official standard or certification for demarcating LRR tires although the Society of Automotive Engineers has two widely accepted procedures for measuring tire rolling resistance. The International Standards Organization (ISO) also has a tire rolling resistance testing procedure. Federal Standard 117 addresses performance, labeling, and certification of retreaded tires for passenger vehicles. Green Seal Standard GC-10 for fleet vehicle maintenance requires retread tires and proper tire disposal.


The products section contains listings of: 1) rolling resistance coefficients for nearly 200 tires, 2) vendors of light-duty retread tires, 3) a listing of 2006 model year vehicles sold with lead-free wheel weights, and 4) available lead-free wheel weights.

Handy Facts

The handy facts section provides a referenced set of facts and findings pertaining to tires and wheel weights.


The definitions section provides a glossary of terms used throughout the Guide.

Credits & Endnotes

The credits & endnotes section lists the people responsible for writing, reviewing, and editing this Guide along with a listing of sources referenced.


Powerpoint Presentations

RPN Webinar - Tires and Wheel Weights, March 18, 2008

RPN - Tire and Wheel Weight Overview

NRDC - Low Rolling Resistance Tires

TRIB - Retread Tires

King County, WA - Lead-free Wheel Weights
Creative Commons License This work by the Responsible Purchasing Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.