The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed that tyres aged 10 years and older will be banned on the front wheels of lorries, buses and coaches across Great Britain in a bid to improve road safety.
In addition, tyres of the same age will be banned on all wheels of minibuses, for tyres in single configuration.
As part of the change, a clearly visible date of manufacture on each tyre will be mandatory, so that older tyres can be easily identified.
The new rules, which were announced by the roads minister Baroness Vere in July, will also apply to retreaded tyres, for which the date of retreading, which will need to be marked on the tyre, will be used to determine its age.
Legislation implementing the changes is expected to be laid in the autumn, following which the government plans to allow an implementation period of three months “to allow owners and industry appropriate time to make operational changes” .
The proposals for the change originally surfaced in a consultation last year, drawing on research commissioned by DfT suggesting that ageing tyres suffer corrosion which could cause them to fail.
The news marks the end of a long campaign by safety advocates for a change in the law, including Frances Molloy, whose son Michael died in a coach crash in 2012. The vehicle involved had a 19-year-old tyre fitted to the front axle.
The government has said it will ask the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to continue checking tyre age as part of routine enforcement, as well as adding an additional assessment to the annual test scheme.
DVSA, which already checks for tyres over 10 years old at roadside checks, said the change in the law would allow it to issue stronger penalties in these instances.
Baroness Vere said: “In the same way that you wouldn’t drive a car with faulty brakes, ensuring your tyres are fit for purpose is crucial in making every journey safer.
“Taking this step will give drivers across the country confidence their lorries, buses and coaches are truly fit for use – a safety boost for road users everywhere.
“This change is in no small way the result of years of campaigning, particularly from Frances Molloy, to whom I thank and pay tribute.”
The Road Haulage Association said: “The move is a revision of an earlier plan to ban all tyres of 10 years or more from HGVs which we were concerned about. We’re pleased the government has listened to our views and is now legislating in respect of front wheel axles only.”
Peter Fairlie, managing director of Prometeon Tyre Group UK whose portfolio includes the Pirelli and Anteo tyre brands, said: “We welcome this new legislation and the government’s drive to improve road safety. Our customers can rest assured that our internal and fleet management processes already go well above and beyond the new legal requirements.”
Prometeon pointed out that it was: “exceedingly unlikely for a professionally operated commercial vehicle to run on tyres that are more than 10 years old”.
“A typical 44t tractor unit will go through a set of front tyres in about two years; those tyres are then remoulded and used elsewhere on the vehicle for 18 months to two years; it’s a similar story for a coach, while a bus may go through its front tyres in a year,” said the company.
As regards concerns raised in a government report about how long tyres are stored before being used, Fairlie added: “Again, this is not a cause for concern for Prometeon and our customers: in our storage facility, once a tyre is more than three years old, it is destroyed.”
The same report raised questions about the placement of DOT codes, which indicate when a tyre was produced, on sidewalls.
Fairlie said: “In response to this, we have asked our HQ in Milan to ensure that our production facilities produce tyres with DOT codes on both the inside and the outside sidewalls, making it easier for drivers and operators to confirm the age of their tyres.
“In the case of remoulds/retreads, our remoulder already stamps our tyres with the date of retreading; however, we will review the position of the stamp and ask our remoulder to take the necessary action to ensure the date stamp can’t be buffed off or damaged through wear and tear.”
More information is available in the government’s consultation outcome document, which can be found here.