The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has said its enforcement teams will now pursue follow-up investigations of HGV, trailer and PSV operators found to be using tyres that are over ten years old, with the possibility of regulatory action.
New guidance from the agency, which came into force on 23 November, states that if an operator cannot provide an adequate explanation for using such a tyre, or their tyre management systems are found to be not up to scratch, they may be referred to the traffic commissioner for potential further action.
The DVSA’s Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness has been updated accordingly – as has the guide to the categorisation of vehicle defects, which is used by DVSA staff to help inform the action they should take when defects are found during roadside inspections and annual tests.
The new procedure builds on previous advice released in 2013 by the Department for Transport (DfT) for bus and coach operators, stipulating that tyres reaching the age of 10 years should not be used on a steering axle, with strict conditions stipulated where used at all.
Since then, DVSA staff have routinely checked tyre age every year, as well as in roadside and fleet inspections; and the 2013 guidance is now being reinforced and extended to the heavy goods sector.
The new crackdown follows a study announced by the DfT earlier this year into the safety of ageing tyres, said to be the first such publicly-funded research in the UK. A report on this is due in the spring.
The roads minister Jesse Norman said he had asked the DVSA to consider the new measures as means of tightening enforcement against potentially dangerous tyres.
“This is an important step forward in our efforts to improve tyre safety,” he said.
“The Department for Transport is continuing to work with experts to collect robust evidence on older tyres. This research will report back in the spring.”
Gareth Llewellyn, chief executive at DVSA, added: “Tyre safety is vital and DVSA has always taken strong action to protect the public from unsafe tyres of all ages.
“By changing our approach, we’re sending the message that no one should use tyres more than 10 years old.”
The Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness states that a “robust tyre management system” is “essential for any professional vehicle operator”, and that it should ensure tyres in service are appropriate to the vehicle and operating conditions.
It should also ensure: “that tyre age is monitored and that tyres aged more than 10 years old should not be used except on a rear axle as part of a twin wheel arrangement.
“Where tyres more than 10 years old are used, their age should be recorded and a specific risk assessment, that considers the speed and loading conditions that the vehicle will operate under (for example, operating only in urban areas) is done.”
The Guide also emphasises the importance of maintaining and monitoring tyre pressures, and examining tyres “regularly and closely” for damage and wear, with mechanisms in place to address any identified issues.
A fleet’s tyre management system should also ensure that relevant staff are properly trained and empowered to act with sufficient authority; that relevant technicians are properly qualified; that any on-site tyres are properly stored; and that drivers are also trained and equipped to recognise and report tyre issues.
For further advice, the DVSA Guide also directs operators to the Freight Transport Association (FTA) website, where they can find the separate Guide to Tyre Management on Heavy Vehicles, compiled by the Tyre Industry Federation with support from DfT, FTA, Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Institute of Road Transport Engineers.
Commenting, FTA’s head of engineering and vehicle standards policy, Phil Lloyd, said: “Tyre condition is of critical importance to the safety of the vehicle’s driver, their passengers and to others road users.
“Although commercial drivers are responsible for ensuring they check the general condition of their tyres daily, a more in-depth inspection should be undertaken by vehicle engineers or tyre inspectors.
“FTA advises all drivers to request an age evaluation as part of their vehicle check. Older tyres may look sound at first glance, but on closer inspection, a small crack or perishing of the rubber compound may be evident – the effects of which may compromise both the safety of the tyre and the vehicle.”
RHA technical director Paul Allegra added: “Old tyres can let you down in more ways than you think.
“At first glance the tyres may look ok and pose no risk. But remember, the older the tyre the greater the risk of sidewall failures and tread separation occurring, placing you, your employees and others at risk.”