Driving safety charity TyreSafe has given drivers a timely reminder to spare a thought for their vehicles’ tyres in the days and weeks before lockdown ends. Many vehicles won’t have been used much since Christmas and most of those that have are likely to have only been used for short trips. While it’s tempting to put maintenance checks on hold, TyreSafe is advising drivers to check their vehicle’s tyres during lockdown to potentially save themselves money in the long run and reduce the risk of a tyre-related incident when they do return to the roads.
2020 provided a turbulent 12 months for the humble MOT. At the start of the year, the centralised testing conducted on the island of Ireland was thrown into disarray after faulty vehicle lifts were found on both sides of the border. It also raised questions about the wisdom of centralised approach in comparison of the de-centralised model used across Great Britain. Of course, all this took place while Covid-19 was still a Far Eastern problem. And yet, before the first quarter was out, national lockdowns had resulted in the deployment a six-month extension of the MOT renewal date, which had the knock-on effect of causing an MOT boom in the last quarter of 2020. The last cars to make use of the extension had their testing date deferred to the end of January 2021, so that complex chapter in the history of the MOT is now over. It also means that we have a chance to learn what happened. At the same time, the latest full-year 2019/2020 DVSA vehicle testing data has now been released, so we can also learn more about how last year’s projections compared with the end results in the months preceding the pandemic and what this might mean in terms of tyre demand.
Even for the best forward-planners, 2020 was a year of surprises. And while the word “unprecedented” has been worn out during the last 12 months, it is difficult to find another more appropriate term. With everything from business closures, to a global pandemic (and with the pandemic resulting in lockdowns, factory closures and spikes in online and mobile tyre business), there certainly has been a lot going on. That’s why in January we crunched the numbers relating to our website traffic in order to find our what exactly were the top 10 stories of 2020.
One of the most pronounced effects of the pandemic on the tyre retail business has been the uptick in online and mobile tyre business. RubberHub, a Software-as-a-Solution (SaaS) project originating in Canada, launched its beta product in 2019 and went fully goes fully live this month (February 2020), with followers and test users already hailing from around Canada, the USA and the UK. Tyres & Accessories found out more from RubberHub Inc. president and founder, David Mulensteen.
Independent garages across the UK are valuing the benefits of a web-based Garage Management System more than ever before, say workshop management specialists TechMan. Remote access to business data from any device, has long been enjoyed by workshops using TechMan but never has productivity been more essential for busy garages than during the ongoing pandemic.
As another example of how the way we are doing business nowadays has been changed by the COVID pandemic, a survey carried out by the Independent Garage Association (IGA) has revealed that 88 per cent of independent garages are currently offering an MOT collection and delivery service for clinically extremely vulnerable and self-isolating people.
The Independent Garage Association (IGA) has released the Garage Guide to Working During COVID-19, to help independent garages easily find the guidance they need to support them through the current lockdown.
Today (Monday 11 January 2021), the DVSA updated its MOT guidance to clarify that “MOT centres can stay open in all areas of Great Britain, including during the national lockdown in England, the temporary lockdown in Scotland, and all of Wales in alert level 4 (lockdown)”. The same guidance always specifies that motorists are still required to get an MOT and there is no MOT exemption this time. As a result, garages across the UK should ensure that customers know that tyre fitting, vehicle repair and MOT services are permitted during the latest lockdown restrictions. At the same time, motorists need to know that there is no MOT exemption.
BA Bush, the 17th largest tyre retailer in the UK – according to our 2020 report – was amongst the first to publish its response to the news of lockdown 3.0. In essence, BA Bush reiterated that it is remaining open for business just as it did in the short “circuit-breaker” lockdown before Christmas 2020.
Tyre specialists, fast-fits and other garages will remain open despite news of the UK’s third national lockdown on the evening of 4 January 2021. Continuing the trend of the last two lockdowns, the stalwart tyre business has worked through the crisis to keep Britain rolling, with NTDA chief executive Stefan Hay reported increase take-up of the association’s key worker accreditation cards.
On 23 November, Oxford Dictionaries declared that “unprecedented” is the word of year. Normally the world famous English language experts choose just one word to sum up the preceding 12 months, but such was the cumulative uniqueness of the series of events that has characterised 2020, this year they chose several “words of an unprecedented year” – a move that is itself unprecedented. So why not use their zeitgeist-capturing collection of novel verbiage as a way of reviewing 2020 from a tyre business perspective?
When the Covid-19 pandemic led to the first national lockdown in March 2020, it wasn’t immediately clear what was allowed to be open. It also took time to clarify who exactly could be defined as key workers. However, it quickly became apparent that – whatever else happens – logistics fleets and blue-light services were indispensable. And these vehicles can’t get anywhere without tyres. Therefore, garages and tyre-fitters were swiftly categorised as exempted businesses and key workers respectively. Having learnt the lessons of the first lockdown, this time things are clear: Tyre garages are allowed to remain open during lockdown. And tyre specialists are key workers.
Despite the fact that the UK was in the middle of lockdown, Michelin Tyre Plc’s ultra-modern retread manufacturing operation resumed production at the end of April. In fact, according to the company, there were only two reasons that the Campbell Road, Stoke-on-Trent site paused manufacturing at all: because the coronavirus-related closures coincided with a pre-planned maintenance stoppage; and because – again due to Covid-19 – there was trouble securing deliveries of the right raw materials from the continent prior to April (see “Michelin Stoke up-and-running, looking forward to ‘steady market growth’” for Michelin UK factory manager Francois Levert’s view on how things have progressed after reopening). Therefore, Michelin UK’s retread manufacturing operation only actually endured a three-week factory shutdown. The neighbouring UK headquarters opened in mid-July and so now its truck tyre and retreading business is putting the focus on success in the new normal. This began with a communications drive that has seen the manufacturer promote the ecological benefits of retreads. Tyres & Accessories spoke with Michelin Plc managing director Chris Smith in order to find out more.