Fleet managers need to do more about the tyres fitted to the cars and vans they operate. That's one of the clear messages from research conducted in 2015 by TyreSafe which found that nearly 10 million tyres in use on UK roads are either in a dangerous condition or illegal.
The research, one of the biggest studies of its kind, makes for chilling reading. After crunching its data TyreSafe, a not-for-profit tyre safety campaigning organisation, found that one in four cars and light commercials have an illegal tyre fitted at some time during the year, while the main offender was insufficient tread depth.
It is generally accepted within the tyre industry that one tyre per vehicle is changed each year on average, although these findings suggest this figure should perhaps be higher. Clearly fleets are paying out significant sums each year for replacement tyres but rarely have policies in place to make sure their conditions are monitored on a regular basis by drivers. This is not helped by a growing number of new vehicles being fitted with tyre sensors, which, after all only monitor pressure levels, and can have the unintended consequence of making routine tyre inspections seem superfluous.
One of the best places to check the safety of a tyre is at the dealer who supplied the car in the first place. Dealers are required to check tyre depths and pressures as part of scheduled services and the best ones will also do so when the car or van is in for repair work. But dealers have not done a good job at promoting their ability to repair or replace damaged tyres and this work has subsequently gone to the burgeoning fast-fit market.
However, when was the last time you went to a fast-fit centre and they had the replacement tyre you required in stock and ready to fit? Typically fast-fits can order the tyre within 24 hours then it's up to the driver to pop back for the fitting. That means running a faulty tyre for longer, using a space saver tyre or replacing with the spare wheel and carrying around the faulty one.
A good franchised dealer though will keep a good stock of new tyres to match those of the new cars they sell and should be able to fix them while you wait, a fact not lost on epyx, the IT supplier, who last year launched a special Tyreserve service for dealers to help them better manage their tyre businesses.
By analysing the customer reports of its fleet customers, epyx estimates that only around 40% of drivers are now getting a tyre fitted on their first visit to a fast-fit centre.
“These figures are not an indication of any slide in efficiency on the part of fast-fits but a reflection of the huge range of tyres fitted to modern cars,” said David Goodyear, head of business development at epyx.
“It would be nearly impossible for a fast-fit centre to carry all the stock needed to cover the majority of the current car parc, such is the diversity of size and manufacturer.
“A franchise dealer is at an advantage in that they are only expected to carry tyres for their own vehicles, which is usually a reasonably limited range. If they choose to carry a reasonable selection of stock, then they should be able to comfortably beat the first time fit figures being achieved by fast-fits.”
Goodyear believes main dealers are the best place for fleets to have replacement tyres fitted, especially when faults are spotted during annual service, and believes that many businesses who use fast-fits are actually losing out on employee productivity.
“If you take the average hourly cost of an employee at, say, £25, then each avoidable visit to a fast-fit centre has a significant additional cost. Extrapolate that over an entire fleet during the course of a year and the cost accumulates rapidly.”
Businesses can remove a lot of the inconvenience associated with tyre replacement by checking out the local dealer's ability to service these specific needs before committing to that particular brand. More importantly though linking tyre inspections and replacement with routine services is also an important duty of care consideration which could improve the safety of your drivers.