UK businesses could reduce fuel costs by up to £500m a year if they fitted more fuel-efficient tyres on their company vehicles, according to new research by the Energy Saving Trust.

The reseach has been revealed as new EU legislation comes into force today (November 1) forcing tyre manufacturers to label their car and light commercial tyres.

The legislation requires all tyres on sale in the UK to display a label indicating their rating on three criteria: grip in wet conditions, external noise, and fuel efficiency. Tyres will be rated from A to F (with A the best) on wet grip and from A to G on the other categories.

The difference between the best and worst tyres on the market in terms of efficiency can reduce vehicle fuel consumption by up to 7.5% over the lifetime of the tyres, says the Energy Saving Trust. Its research found that there are 3.9m company vehicles (2.4m cars and 1.5m LCVs) in the UK, and if the tyres on 50% of them were changed from the least to the most efficient grade, UK companies could reduce fuel costs by up to £500m per year.

In addition, this would reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1 million tonnes, it said.

Energy Saving Trust is urging businesses to select best-in-class tyres for their vehicles and the new legislation will make it much easier for them to do so.

Tim Anderson, senior knowledge manager at the Energy Saving Trust, said: “We welcome this new legislation and hope that fleet managers and leasing companies benefit from the substantial long-term savings they can make.

“Better tyres may cost more to purchase but this additional expenditure is usually more than offset by the fuel savings over the tyres’ lifetime.”

Safety is another key benefit of choosing a better tyre, it said. Around one in three company cars is involved in an accident each year and the Department for Transport estimates that, each year, between 800 and 1,000 people are killed in road traffic accidents while driving for work. Business drivers are 30-40% more likely to be involved in a collision than private drivers.

Safety is assessed for the new labels in terms of grip in wet conditions. The difference between each category is an additional three to six metres braking distance from 50mph to 12.5mph.

Anderson added: “Research has shown that stopping distances from 50mph could be shortened by 18 metres by fitting the safest-rated tyres. At motorway speeds, the difference between the highest and lowest-rated tyres will be even greater. Fitting better tyres is a small step that will make a significant difference to driver safety.”

The third factor included on the labels is tyre noise. Above 30mph, most of a car’s external noise comes from its tyres, and the Energy Trust says prolonged exposure to traffic noise can cause high blood pressure in children and has been associated with hypertension and heart disease in adults.