Every year the UK-based National Tyre Dealers Association (NTDA) holds its enthusiastically attended conference which from experience I have always considered to be a reliable measure of what is happening in the tire industry — not just in the UK but throughout Europe as the two markets are closely linked.
As usual I was there to catch the various vibes and thoughts of around 300 tire dealers and to listen to what appointed speakers had to say. This included statements from the British Tire Manufacturers Association which announced that a rapport between the industry and government was significantly improving and negotiations will start soon on a new level of tire labelling standards.
However, there was no question that the topic under review garnering the most concern was the increasing problem of part-worn tires and the growing amount of illegal tires fitted to vehicles. Stefan Hay, chief executive of the NTDA, highlighted the association’s recent frustration on attempting to achieve a total ban on part-worn tires in the industry and announced that in the future the NTDA in partnership with the organization Tyresafe and local trading standards officers will be adopting a more direct approach to the problem.
He states, “We have tried being nice and polite and also working in partnership with various enforcement agencies. We have even attempted to collaborate with other trade bodies, but still the situation remains out of control because some unscrupulous dealers consistently ignore the regulations and sell tires that have not been tested and inspected for damage.
“These tires are usually not marked as part-worn and can be stored in tire-mountains in yards open to all weather conditions causing further deterioration.
“Therefore, we are now going to get much tougher and our new campaign and activities will center around a very aggressive lobbying process at every opportunity,” he says.
“Part worn tires are in most cases not fit for reuse and we will accept nothing less than a total ban and we are ready to take this campaign forward for as long as it takes. Even to the point of drilling holes in the sidewalls of inferior tires to stop them being resold.”
In fact, I was interested to learn that some legitimate NTDA dealers are already damaging beyond repair sidewalls of tires they are removing from customers’ cars to make certain that they do not find their way into the part-worn market.
This is a very bold step to take, but under the circumstances, certainly not surprising.
The view from Sigmavision
Another interesting speaker was Andy Pryce, managing director of UK-based Sigmavision, which is an accomplished specialist in laser sensor and camera imaging.
Pryce presented some alarming current statistics on the poor attitude of motorists toward tire safety. He pointed out that when tires need changing, over 25% are already illegal plus 70% have less than 2 mm of tread depth. Pryce adds, “Even more shocking is a recent reliable survey that reported that up to 10 million vehicles in the UK and Europe could well have at least one illegal tire fitted. There is also an alarming number of Ministry of Transport (MOT) failures directly due to tires and some drivers even appear to actually wait until their vehicles fail the MOT test before reluctantly buying a new tire.”
(The MOT test is an annual test of vehicle safety, road worthiness aspects and exhaust emissions required in Great Britain for more vehicles over three years old. The government department is actually defunct, and certificates are now issued under the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.)
Other equally disturbing European facts about current tire safety were revealed including 40% of road traffic accidents caused by vehicle defects are tire related plus 20% of motorists admit to never actually checking the condition of their tires. And two thirds do not know the penalty for having an illegal tire on their vehicle.
All these unbelievable facts have been accumulated by Sigmavision in their ongoing involvement in Tire Measurement Technology and the recent release of the company’s two new Treadreader handheld and drive-over-ramp tire scanners.
This patented Treadreader tire measurement technology creates a detailed 3D scan of each tire and captures the entire width of a tire and 50 mm around the tire to ensure superior accuracy and reliability of traditional dip gauges and non-contact “laser pointer” measurement devices.
The handheld version can be viewed on a tablet, mobile phone or personal computer while the drive-over version is a fully automated system.
Sigmavision was also keen to point out that they firmly believe that more needs to be done to actively involve ordinary drivers in the care and safety of their tires. The adoption of tire tread depth management scanners, not just for the industry but also motorists, could definitely help with the apparent ignorance on tire safety.
I came away from this year’s conference with the feeling that when it comes to tire safety awareness, tire dealers in Europe are finally appreciating the importance of getting their message across.
Plus there seems to be a much more forceful determination to ban part-worn tires altogether. Of course, these problems are not unique to any continent, but at least they are beginning to be more recognized in the UK and Europe.
John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 24 years. In 2004 he launched his own consulting company, Sapphire Media Services, which caters to business media clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.
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