Back in March 2016, I wrote about the ongoing battle with dangerous and part-worn tires in Europe. I highlighted a particular case in which a 19-year-old tire was fitted to a coach that had a blowout and crashed in the UK in 2012, killing three teenagers. The mother of one of the fatally injured youngsters, Frances Molly, was in the middle of a long and determined campaign to ban all tires over the age of 10 years old.
In fact, since that report I have become personally involved in Molly’s fight for a change in the law on aging tires, and I’m part of the campaign team handling the media side of our activities and results. It is never my intention to return to the ‘scene of a crime’ and file a column covering the same issue, but during the last 15 months this important crusade has continued to gather momentum, and I feel MTD readers would be interested to learn what progress has been made.
Since my article, Molly successfully raised a new Government Bill (policy) calling for a ban on all tires over 10 years old, which passed its first reading in the UK Parliament. However, it has never been submitted for a second important reading in The House of Commons in London due to resistance to a change in the law by senior government officials who considered there was insufficient evidence to approve the bill.
This unexpected setback only encouraged the campaigning team (including myself) to regroup and continue fighting for these, in my opinion, dangerous tires to be removed from European roads once and for all. This challenge to a change in the law on tire safety has quietly gathered momentum but never seriously looked like it could happen — until now!
At the very end of June the situation arrived at an extremely crucial turning point with the official launch of a new revised campaign called “Tyred” in Liverpool, UK, which had been carefully and specifically organized by an increasing team of distinguished supporters, including leading MPs (Members of Parliament), several significant tire and automotive associations and a number of editors from significant tire and automotive publications and local PR agencies — agent marketing.
To say that this well-publicized and highly charged press conference announced a clear, aggressive message from the UK tire industry to their government of their intent would be a complete understatement. It was an emotional and passionate and at times aggressive presentation attended by over 200 guests, including leading local and national newspapers and radio stations with a number of influential speakers. It opened with a damning comment outlining Tyred’s confident determination to introduce new aging tire legislation as soon as possible.It was generally agreed by everyone that the campaign should not even be necessary as two coroners (commenting on the case) have said on record that it was a disgrace that legislation was not already in force. It seems the last two government transport ministers have failed to recognize this road safety issue, which is disappointing as it is an easy bill to put in place.
Molly opened the presentation with a heartfelt account of her son’s accident and announced that just prior to the press conference, National Express Coaches, one of the UK’s and Europe’s largest and most successful operators, confirmed it had agreed to become an active partner of the campaign, which amounted to a terrific boost for the Tyred team.
Vinay Parmar, a director of National Express, pointed out that what happened to Michael Molly had made his company closely examine its own operation in terms of tire safety. He said, “We would never want to see such a preventable tragedy like this happen to one of our coaches and our customers safety remains a paramount priority for National Express.”
Stefan Hay, CEO of the National Tyre Dealers Association (NTDA), also provided a shocking insight into the very real dangers of sub-standard tires being fitted to vehicles, stating they are recognized as a critical component on any vehicle, but sadly are also one of the most neglected. He added, “Statistics have consistently proved that tires are the largest single contributor to road accidents in Europe resulting in casualties, and the reason for this is simple — drivers’ negative attitude toward their tires.
“Last year the NTDA carried out a national survey on 340,000 tires with absolutely frightening results, as over 27% were found to be ‘already illegal,’ meaning that in Europe at any one time around 25 million vehicles could be driving on our roads with potentially lethal tires. It is unbelievable that currently there is no effective enforcement of effective regulations, which means there is also ‘no deterrent’ leading to neglect!”
Finally, Maria Eagle, France’s MP in Liverpool, delivered a straight-talking opinion on why the Tyred campaign is so important to her. She stated, “I find it amazing and frustrating that it will not cost the current UK government anything to change the law on tires, and to be honest this matter is not really a political issue between political parties but all about good, old-fashioned ‘common sense.’
“The enforcement of this campaign is easy and straightforward, so let’s just get it done.”
In the days following the Tyred press conference the campaign was featured online within almost all the relevant European tire magazines as well as other automotive publications along with local and national radio. So it would be correct to say that the Tyred message has well and truly been heard in Europe. The general opinion at the moment is that it is more a question of when rather than if this much-needed legislation becomes law, and only time will tell.
I know America also grapples with the tire aging issue. I would be interested to know what dealers think of this matter. ■
John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 26 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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