No law change, but DfT publishes tyre age guidance for PSVs

In response to coroner Richard Travers’ findings following the September 2012 fatal coach crash on the A3 caused by the failure of a 19 year old tyre, on 19 December the Department for Transport and Vehicle and Operator Service Agency released a tyre age recommendation document. The guidance has been published under the ‘Making Roads Safer’ policy.

Noting the crash coroner’s conclusion that the failure of the coach’s front left tyre resulted from “deterioration due to its age” and that no obvious signs of tyre defects were present prior to the incident, the guidance “strongly recommends” public service vehicle operators take the precautionary step of not allowing tyres over ten years old to be fitted to the front axles of buses and coaches. “Such tyres should be fitted only to the rear axles of vehicles as part of a twin tyre combination,” states the guidance.

These non-enforceable recommendations fall far short of the change in legislation some have campaigned for since the accident. On the ‘R.I.P. Michael Molloy’ Facebook page set up in memory of the 18-year old, one of three killed in the September 2012 crash, mother and tyre aging legislation campaigner Frances Molloy wrote that “this guidance from government ‘coincidentally’ came out today on the day I was meeting Mary Creagh. If the government ‘strongly recommend’ tyres over ten years old should not be fitted to the front axles of buses and coaches, then they must have ‘strong’ concerns about this issue.” Reporting on the meeting with the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Ms Molloy said it went “very well indeed” and shared that “she feels there is a compelling case to change the legislation around the age of tyres.” In addition to Mary Creagh, Molloy’s campaign has gained the political support of Maria Eagle, MP for Garston and Halewood.

Despite the release of the DfT and VOSA guidance and the calls for tighter control from Molloy and her supporters, Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin is “not persuaded that legislation to restrict the age of tyres is appropriate at this stage.” In a letter dated 29 November 2013 and sent to Maria Eagle, McLoughlin confirmed his dilettante understanding of tyres by stating “it is clear to me that the association between the age of a tyre and its structural integrity is not fully understood.” He added that he’d “noted” the information provided by tyre expert David Price during a meeting but countered this with the comment that “the tyre industry suggests that other factors such as the maintenance of correct inflation pressures, regular use, and inspection for damage are more critical than a single limit on the age of a tyre.” McLoughlin also wrote that difficulties viewing date codes on dual rear tyres – the fitment position recommended by the 19 December guidance – served as a disincentive to introduce tyre age legislation.

The guidance can be downloaded here.

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