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In the driving seat

Keep your tyres on track

Keep your tyres on track

By Phil Lloyd, Head of Engineering and Vehicle Standards Policy, FTA

Official bodies are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of tyre safety; MOT standards of tyres were tightened in 2018 and in 2019, the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) strengthened the requirements for tyre condition compliance. In this article Phil Lloyd, Head of Engineering and Vehicle Standards Policy at FTA – the only business group that represents all of logistics – provides information and advice on how to remain compliant.

Tyre pressure:
Correctly inflated tyres are vital to the safety of your vehicle and failure to keep them so can have a significant impact, both on the safe use of the vehicle and its fuel efficiency; research shows that operating a tyre that is 10% under inflated can increase fuel consumption by 1.5%. And while tyre pressure was previously checked manually by drivers, technology advancements have resulted in the implementation of the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). TPMS communicates with the driver via a dash-board light. This is illuminated when the ignition is switched on indicating the system is being checked; it remains on if it has identified an underinflated tyre. However, reliance should not be placed solely on TPMS as many of these systems do not detect over-inflation.

During services or safety inspections, tyre pressures should be assessed and, where necessary, set to either the manufacturer’s recommendations, or those specified for the vehicle. However, if you suspect your tyre inflation is incorrect, you should investigate this immediately; if DVSA discover you have been driving a vehicle displaying either a TPMS light, or an alternative tyre pressure warning, they may take enforcement action against you.

Tread depth:
The minimum legal tread depth for tyres on vans that are 3,500 kg design gross weight or less is 1.6mm, in a continuous band around the central three quarters of the tyre. Although the tread depth outside of the central three quarters of the tyre can be less than this, it is likely that in such cases the edge of the central three quarters will be at, or lower than, the required 1.6mm.

Due to the proximity of mud flaps and the car body, checking the exact tread depth of some tyres can be challenging. However, gaining a broader understanding of the tyre’s tread depth can be easier, as you can both look and feel for indicators. Tyre manufacturers will often mould tyre tread indicators into their tyres at roughly 2.0mm to help drivers identify when tyres need to be changed.

However, if you are in doubt, or if you are running a vehicle with tyres close to the legal limit it is, in the opinion of FTA, best to get your maintenance provider, technician or tyre fitter to assess the tyre(s).

Tyre condition and debris:
A recent report by Bridgestone Tyres and Highways England suggests that most tyre blow-outs – when the tyre rapidly deflates and/or disintegrates – are due to foreign objects having penetrated the tyre. It is therefore important to regularly check for items stuck in the tyre; look for any bulges in the tyre wall or cuts to the surface. If you cannot see the whole of the tyre, then feel around the tyre tread and walls – wearing gloves is advised – and look for items that should not be there. It can also be challenging to assess the inward face of tyres, or the inside of twin tyres. If you cannot get direct vision you should, in the view of FTA, consider using a mirror.

It is also important to assess the condition of the tyre walls between twin tyres – particularly on tippers or vehicles used in construction – as there may be debris, or damage caused from debris. Finding bricks lodged between twin tyres is quite common and can be extremely dangerous to road users if not removed. For older tyres, perishing of the carcass can also present problems; if you do not have regular safety inspections/services, then monitoring these issues is crucial.

If you are towing a trailer, it is vital the tyres on the trailer are regularly checked. Unlike large trailers towed by HGVs, smaller trailers do not require a MOT test and therefore the tyres may never have been checked. If you are towing a trailer, you are responsible for its condition and could therefore be prosecuted if it is found to be defective.

Overall, correctly maintaining tyres are crucial as it improves both vehicle safety and fuel efficiency. Additionally, it lowers emissions and reduces operational costs by increasing tyre longevity. Using a vehicle with defective tyres could result in three penalty points per defective tyre on the driver’s licence, so it is vital to ensure your tyres remain compliant at all times.

Efficient logistics is vital to keep the UK trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.

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