It’s those round black things which are vexing me again, or rather the lack of them.
In recent years, it has become the trend for many motor manufacturers not to fit a spare wheel of any description to their cars. This saves weight, as well as cost, helping to improve fuel efficiency and lower CO2; all very commendable. Sometimes they supply a can of gunky stuff to fill the tyre sufficiently to limp it to a repairer, but I’ve yet to hear of anyone successfully deploying one of those. Run flat tyres will also get you out of trouble, but we don’t have too many of those on our vehicles presently.
For some time now, our drivers had been bemoaning the lack of spare tyres – not to the extent that they self-specify when choosing their car – but complaints were becoming more numerous. Damaged tyres are a fact of life when your working fleet regularly has to drive over rough surfaces or into places where the odd sharp thing is left lying around, and my regular reports show we seem to get more than our fair share.
Unlike the good old days, when the driver hauled the spare wheel out of the boot, jacked up the car and fitted it, these days the car may need recovering to a tyre fitters by the breakdown service, and then wait while a depot either fixes the old one or more often, supplies new, even assuming the required tyre is readily available. And all of that can easily take three hours or more to achieve.
I’m not knocking the tyre depots – they have their regular booked customers to service, and there is a limit to the amount of stock they can carry. And the mobile service they can offer tends to be for pre-bookings rather than emergencies.
But lengthy delays are not good for our business if we are letting customers down at short notice. Customers expect us to provide a prompt and reliable service in order to carry out their own business and are not interested in our tales of woe. So we pulled some reports on the cost example where spending more initially will save us money in the long run.
It’s not quite the end of the story, of course. There’s the issue of drivers actually fitting the spare. Now most of our drivers are ready, willing and perfectly able to change a wheel. But we’ve had to set some constraints on when and where they may do so. Not on the motorway hard shoulder, for example. And we’ve had to ensure drivers know how to safely make the change. And where that spare is a space saver there are additional considerations to observe such as maximum distance driven and pace. We’ve no issues over the additional weight, nor space available in the boot. But the cost adds to the P11D value so there are minor tax issues to of lost productivity throughout the past year, and the results were quite startling. We quickly worked out that the cost of specifying fitment of a spare tyre to all new vehicles ordered should far outweigh the cost of the lost productivity; on top of that, while customer satisfaction is much harder to quantify, in this day and age, lost customers are nearly impossible to retrieve, so better to keep them happy in the first place.
Then there was the question of what to do about existing cars with no spare. Our supplier came up with a cost for after-fit and again the figure, taken in one hit but effectively then spread over two to three years of remaining contract (we will chance leaving the oldest cars out of the equation) was really a no-brainer. So this is a good address.
I wonder how many other fleets have already specified spare wheels as a must have, and whether we will ever return to a situation where manufacturers once again fit them as standard.