An AA Populus poll revealed that in 2015, nearly a third of UK accidents, where vehicle defects were a contributory factor, involved low tyre pressure, or were defective or illegal. These accidents included 14 fatalities.
Furthermore, poor driver care and a general lack of maintenance contributes to premature replacement of tyres in many fleets, thereby increasing fleet operating costs.
Misuse and Neglect
Over a quarter of UK car drivers fail to check tyre pressure regularly, but tyres can lose up to two pounds of pressure per square inch (psi) a month.
“It doesn’t take much for even brand new tyres to become dangerous,” Azhar cautions, “and if there’s also any minor damage, the issues can mount up, until you’re in a situation where the cumulative effect is significant.”
If there is prolonged under-inflation, it causes rapid wear on the edges of tyres, meaning they have a shortened lifespan. This also results in excessive flexing of the tyre’s sidewalls, which generates heat.
“Under-inflated tyres are more prone to blow-out due to heat build up, and if that happens it can mean a fleet car is off the road awaiting a new tyre, especially as more cars don’t carry a spare wheel”
Azhar also points out that tyre pressure is vital in how efficiently a car runs, and how well it handles.
“Tyre pressure affects rolling resistance, which then affects essential driving elements such as braking, acceleration and cornering, along with fuel consumption and emissions,” he remarks.
Sound Tyre Management
“Some fleets lack the sort of designated role, or focus of responsibility that this requires, if they’re to keep on top of it,” Azhar observes.
Tyre pressure should be a routine fleet management issue but, if it continues to get ignored, it will increase the risk of accidents
Tyres require different pressures depending on driving conditions, and regular checks are the best way of ensuring that the pressures are what they should be, even allowing for Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS).
“There’s no substitute for physically checking your tyres,” Azhar suggests, “and this should include visually inspecting them for damage to the tread and sidewalls.”
There is a legal minimum of tread depth of 1.6mm across three quarters of the tread width. The width must also cover the tyre’s entire circumference.
“If you see uneven wearing down of the tread, it is very likely to mean you’ve got incorrect wheel alignment,” warns Azhar, “plus a tyre worn down this way is more likely to deflate unexpectedly.”
“Ignorance is no excuse,” concludes Azhar. “Tyre safety and having the correct tyre pressure are vital for fleet safety, and economy, and should form part of a preventative approach to fleet maintenance.”
For further information on tyre safety, please read Fleet Managers: Are You Prepared for Safer Winter Tyres?