TWG chairman calls for increased pressure over tyre casualties

Tyre Wholesalers Group chairman Ashley Croft has called upon the tyre industry to campaign for greater attention to be paid to poorly maintained tyres after Department for Transport figures showed an increase in the number of Killed and Seriously Injured in 2011 where “illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres” were a contributory factor. The chairman also addressed the issue du jour, EU labelling legislation, and while he expressed support for the tyre label and supported the wish to scrutinise the grades on labels, he also suggested that it was not “the number one priority of the tyre industry”.

Croft began his speech by reviewing 2012, a year he said “has been a very good year for many organisations and businesses”, with the London Olympics and Paralympics “showing off this country at its best”, and businesses showing “strong results, with record levels of income, record profits or profits exceeding expectations at half year and Q3.

“At least,” Croft continued, “this is the case if you are a premium brand tyre manufacturer. It is good to see such strength in our manufacturing sector.”

In tyre retailers and wholesalers the market decline during the second half of 2011 “continued unabated through to the start of Q4 2012, where thankfully at last we have witnessed an uplift in business levels,” Croft said, pointing out that few businesses could match the results of the manufacturers as a result of “very tough trading conditions for our sector of the industry”.

Tyre label challenges

Croft then addressed the “number of challenges, not only for distributors but for manufacturers also” brought about by the tyre label. “Results for tyres were released very late by many manufacturers, and tyres were subsequently supplied without labels, although manufactured after week 2712, right into October. This has placed responsibility on wholesalers to label product in order to supply into the market once the regulation came into force on 1st November.”

Meanwhile he summarised the challenge for manufacturers with the question, “when is a BB rated tyre not a BB rating?”

“At the recent Tyre Labelling Legislation and Marketing Conference held in Brussels,” Croft said, “a raw materials supplier made the point that a far eastern tyre manufacturer, typically designated as a budget tyre manufacturer, buys the same raw material from the same suppliers as the traditional premium brand manufacturers. The tyres are produced in the latest state of the art factory with the latest equipment, by engineers that have been supported potentially by engineers from Europe following factory closures on the European mainland.

“Why should the Far Eastern product be inferior to that produced by Premium manufacturers? Labelling has certainly focused minds on the ratings being provided on tyres. One senses that the premium brand manufacturers have the most to lose as a result of this legislation.

“Indeed the ETRMA, in their role as Europe’s self-appointed tyre police, stated last month that ‘market surveillance should be the number one priority of the work of the organisation’. The TWG supports tyre labelling and agree that label results claimed by manufacturers and displayed on tyres must be capable of scrutiny, but I would not state this is the number one priority of the tyre industry.

Increase in illegal tyre related accidents

Ashley Croft noted that at the TWG Luncheon 2011, he had commented on the statistic that 60 per cent of tyres removed at the time of replacement are illegal, suggesting the case for greater enforcement. This year, Department for Transport figures for 2011, released this year, gave him reason again to focus his speech on tyres.

“A sad statistic released this year was the confirmation in September from the DfT of Road Casualties in GB in 2011 showing an increase in Killed and Seriously Injured of some 5 per cent over 2010 figures, and the first increase in this total for a number of years. The number of ‘killed and seriously injured’ in 2011 where ‘illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres were a contributory factor increased by almost 25 per cent.

“Whilst this contributory figure is relatively small against the total, the growth of this is a worrying trend. Using the DfT cost calculation figure, the cost to the country of these tyre related serious accidents for 2011 was in excess of £80 million.

“We have a lot of talk about part-worn tyres and associated dangers, but until we can educate the public and enforce existing tread depth laws how can we realistically expect our message on part-worns to be heard?”

Croft recounted a recent BBC series, which asked “How safe are Britain’s roads?” In the first episode one of the presenters “took his seven-year old Renault Espace to the Thatcham Test Facility for a brake test comparison”. When there it was discovered that “his near side front tyre had no tread on the outside to the point where it was verging on the illegal.” It transpired that he could not recount when he had last checked his tyre’s pressure, while his view of what the tyre pressures should have been was not mirrored by the actual handbook recommendations.

“We have to ask how such attitudes can be addressed,” Croft continued. “If a presenter of an assumed reasonable level of intelligence does not think it worthwhile to check his tyres and pressures before the vehicle has its braking potential tested, what chance are our expectations of users completing regular tyre checks on their vehicles?” With tyres worn beyond the legal limit at the time of removal staying around 60 per cent, Croft says the UK’s drivers show “a total disregard of our tread depth laws”.

Asking how this an be addressed, Croft asked, “do we have an appetite to address this? Should the focus of the ETRMA be surveillance or safety? Could we, as an industry, work together on a campaign to tackle this issue?”

Stating that “if we do nothing, nothing will change,“ Croft said: “We have to get our existing tread depth laws enforced. In this era of budget cuts and caps, how can we achieve a re-directing of resource?

“The unfortunate 2011 casualty stats provide us with an opportunity to broach this subject and bring pressure to bear on enforcement bodies. We need to embarrass the Government by this existing state of affairs such that they are forced to redeploy resource within our Police forces. Every single MP should be written to and made aware of the statistics of illegal tyres removed and the increase in killed and seriously injured by tyre associated accidents in 2011, with the corresponding cost to the country.

“All local papers should be written to, highlighting the lack of the enforcement and results it is bringing. Local radio and TV stations should be contacted and provided with interview opportunities, again highlighting what the lack of enforcement is bringing.

“The industry could even consider a fund to provide a specific Police tyre inspection team, capable of touring the country and running tyre safety weeks as of old. That would be a good use of the record results we are seeing the tyre manufacturers currently enjoy.”


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