HGV tyres: Unloved, deflated and dangerous…

Chief Executive | WheelRight Ltd


In a bid to improve safety on the UK’s roads, WheelRight has been offering a free pressure check to HGV drivers and motorists on one of Britain’s busiest stretches of road – the south-bound M6.


The unique pilot scheme launch of our drive-over tyre pressure system at Keele Services, which is running in association with Highways England and Welcome Break, has proven so popular that it’s been extended until Christmas.


As part of the pilot, we’ve been applying the data we’ve collected from thousands of vehicles to conduct a live survey of the nation’s tyres.  This was accumulated from the period of our launch in March to June 2015.


According to our research, our nation’s tyres are not being well cared for.  We have discovered that HGVs are typically running with at least one under-inflated tyre at any one time.  Meanwhile, more than a quarter of Britain's cars have at least one tyre that is dangerously under-inflated.


These shocking results follow on from research carried out by TyreSafe, which found that up to 10 million cars on Britain’s roads have illegal levels of tread depth.  Every year, the UK sees approximately 25 deaths and nearly 1,500 serious accidents attributed to poorly inflated or defective tyres.


Not only is tyre under-inflation a safety issue – it’s also stopping our roads from running smoothly.  Highways England data reveals that 21% of all of the breakdowns that occurred between April 2013 and September 2014 could be linked to a tyre or wheel defect.


While drivers do visually check their tyres to ensure they are safe, the feedback we’ve gained from a sample of HGV drivers reveals a general assumption that tyre pressures have been checked and are thus correct when their lorry is declared fit to leave the depot.  Not only is this dangerous – it’s also highly costly to fleet operators.  On average, 10% tyre under-inflation costs an extra £1,000 each year in additional fuel costs.


However, we are not implying fleet operators or drivers have been remiss on road safety in the past.  By no means do we wish to point the finger – the industry has been using the tools it had available to make sure its vehicles are safe.  But the industry is relying on manual procedures of tyre pressure checking which clearly do not always occur.


Regular tyre pressure checks offer significant cost and safety benefits to all fleets.  We have no doubt that accidents could be reduced.  Raising greater awareness of the impact a badly under inflated tyre can have on vehicle safety is key to achieving this.  Better safe than sorry.