New campaign to improve fleet tyre safety: Related deaths and injuries preventable

A new campaign designed to educate company car and commercial vehicle drivers on the signs and symptoms of unhealthy tyres and encourage them to commit to the habit of checking their tyres once a month has been launched by Goodyear Tyres.

Simultaneously, new research unveiled by Highways England and tyre company Bridgestone has suggested that almost three quarters of motorway incidents related to tyre failure could be prevented if drivers carried out simple checks.

The research revealed that almost 75% of tyre failure samples analysed by Bridgestone involved poor inflation or debris penetration issues – problems which could be potentially avoided with better tyre husbandry.

The Goodyear Tyres campaign – ‘Donut Ignore the Signs’ – is designed to overcome what the tyre manufacturer claimed was confusion over what to look and feel for when drivers routinely check tyres.

When company cars and commercial vehicles are off-road, it directly impacts on service levels and bottom lines, so minimising vehicle downtime should be a business priority. As a result, committing to regular tyre checks, for drivers and fleet managers, helps ensure vehicles remain safe, with a reduced risk of breakdowns and accidents.

Poor tyre maintenance was the most common reason for car crashes in the UK in 2016, according to Department for Transport figures, and whilst it’s natural for tyres to change over time, there was a clear unease when it came to checking their health, said Goodyear Tyres.

New research from Goodyear Tyres with a survey of 1,870 people also revealed that more than a quarter (27%) did not know what the legal minimum tread depth limit was for their tyres – 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tyre and around the entire circumference – while a further 28% hadn’t a clue as to the purpose of a European Union tyre label.

The six donut metaphors (pictured) presented the most common unhealthy tyre conditions in a clear, visual way, helping with the difficulties of at-home tyre checks, said Goodyear Tyres.

David Morris, business account manager – fleet and public sector, Goodyear Tyres, said: “Ultimately, it is down to the motorist to ensure that their tyres are in good health, but many drivers struggle to easily identify dangerous tyre conditions.

“By presenting potential tyre conditions in a playful image, our hope is that drivers will become more in-tune with their rubber and feel confident to complete at-home or at-work checks”.

Meanwhile more than 30 people were killed or seriously injured in motorway crashes in 2016 due to illegal or faulty tyres.

But the 18-month study by Highways England and Bridgestone suggested that commuters, commercial drivers and other road users could do a lot more to help reduce crashes through regular tyre checking.

Richard Leonard, Highways England’s head of road safety, said: “England’s motorways are the safest in the world but we’re determined to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on them.

“This important research confirms our view that road users must play a bigger role and get into the habit of checking tyre pressures and tread depths and looking out for nails and other debris stuck in tyres before setting out on journeys. These simple checks could save lives.”

During the project, staff working for Highways England at depots across the West Midlands provided more than 1,000 pieces of tyre debris from motorways to a technical engineering team from Bridgestone to analyse.

The findings from 1,035 tyre segments retrieved from the M1, M6, M40, M5 and M42 revealed:

  • 56% of tyres failed due to road/yard debris penetration
  • 18% failed due to poor inflation
  • 8% failed due to poor vehicle maintenance
  • 1% of tyres failed due to manufacturing defects
  • 1% of tyres failed due to excessive heat
  • 16% of the tyres couldn’t be specified to one particular problem

The tyre debris was taken from cars, vans, commercial vehicles and motorbikes, with under-inflation of tyres a key theme, along with poor vehicle maintenance, both of which accounted for 26% of the entire sample. When considering that 32 people were killed or seriously injured in motorway road traffic accidents in 2016 due to ‘illegal, defective or underinflated tyres’ Bridgestone and Highways England say simple tyre checks save lives.

In addition, the cost to the economy from a two-hour delay on a busy stretch of motorway following a two-lane closure stands at £135,360 and a massive £1,488,960 for a three-lane closure lasting up to four hours.

Some of the samples were particularly alarming, said the organisations, with a temporary ‘space-saver’ spare tyre being run to destruction, while a number of potentially lethal and illegal ‘string’ repairs were also found on car tyres, which are completely unsuitable at any speed, let alone 70 mph speeds on motorways.

Bridgestone technical manager Gary Powell, who oversaw the analysis of the debris with field engineer Peter Moulding and the rest of the firm’s technical department, said: “Some simple tyre checks can save lives, not to mention reduce the risk of a stressful breakdown on a motorway.

“With proper vehicle inspection and maintenance programs, many of the failure methods noted should be detectable and preventable.”

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