Chris Mitchinson, Director of In Life Services at CLM, answers the questions that he commonly receives on tyre management
Just how importantly do fleet decision-makers need to take tyre management policies?
A car is attached to the road via a piece of tyre about the size of the palm of your hand. So ensuring that tyres are in tip-top condition is very important, not least from the viewpoint of a duty of care to your employees.
We would put tyre safety at the heart of any tyre management policy, ahead of cost, and would advocate regular tyre checks to assess not just the depth of the tread but also the condition of the tyre – whether there is any cracking, splits or bulging in the tyre from kerbing them. From our point of view, compromising on tyre safety is not an option.
Tyre safety is an important part of car maintenance and one that’s often overlooked by fleet drivers and organisations. Basic checks, including regular checking of tyre pressures can make a crucial difference to fuel consumption, how a car performs, and as well as making the car safer, properly maintained tyres will have a much longer lifespan.
Fast-fit providers such as ATS and Kwik-Fit will provide free tyre checks at their depots, although there is a small charge if the checks are carried out at the client’s premises, as the process generates a full audit report on the condition and wear of all the tyres checked.
When are tyres required to be changed?
The legal minimum tread depth for cars in the UK is 1.6mm throughout a continuous band, comprising the central three-quarters of breadth of the tread, and around its entire circumference.
A quick and easy way to see if your tyre tread exceeds the minimum legal tread depth is to place a 20p coin into the main tread grooves of the tyre. If the outer band of the 20p coin is obscured, the tread is above the legal limit. If the outer band of the coin is visible, the tyres should be checked immediately.
However, the legal limit notwithstanding, we advocate changing tyres at 2mm as empirical evidence demonstrates tyre performance can actually improve with wear and that 2mm is a perfectly safe level for a general tyre change policy.
Some tyre manufacturers and certain vehicle makers advocate changing tyres at 3mm but we feel this is unnecessary and not cost-effective for our clients, although we would always adopt our clients’ wishes on this one.
What is the best type of tyre to go for – premium, mid range or budget?
Unless a vehicle is nearing the end of its contract, when the benefits of a premium tyre might not be realised, our recommendation would always be to fit a premium product. The final decision is of course influenced by our clients. The premium brands CLM recommends are Michelin and Continental.
Due to the compounds, technology and design, premium tyres last longer while the technical performance is generally better compared to mid-range or budget options, giving the operator greater performance, longevity and improved cost efficiency.
We replace 25% of tyres before the end of their economic life due to poor driver behaviour, such as kerbing the tyres or, in the case of run-flats, continuing to drive beyond the speed and mileage stated by the manufacturer making them irreparable.
However, run-flats are becoming less popular as their hardened tyre walls affect the handling characteristics, they generally do not wear as well and generally cost more. At the same time, many drivers prefer the security of having a spare tyre fitted anyway, thus reducing the demand for run-flat tyres.
Also due to the puncture repair kits, which comprise mainly glue-kit solutions, being messy and in many cases not providing satisfactory results, most company car drivers are not keen to get their hands dirty. Hence it is commonplace for drivers to call for mobile attendance to replace the tyre.
Should you fit standard, all weather or switch between standard and winter tyres?
We have a short answer to this one – and it’s the Michelin CrossClimate tyre, which is probably the greatest breakthrough in tyre technology for many years. Its unique construction makes this a tyre for all seasons and all conditions -snow ice, wet, dry – and completely makes redundant the argument for fitting different tyres for different seasons.
The only possible exception would be in remote areas which suffer extreme weather conditions, like the Scottish Highlands, for example, where winter tyres may be necessary. For anywhere else, the CrossClimate from Michelin fits the bill. It meets all European standards for driving in the snow and is a true all-season round performer.
Where is the best place to get our tyres from – leasing company, direct deal with manufacturer, fast-fit, or local independent?
At CLM, some 80% of the tyres we fit are supplied and fitted by the fast-fit chains such as Kwik-Fit, ATS and National Tyres. They bring a standardised level of service and price in all parts of the UK without any regionality and they provide the tyres for the bulk of our business.
Of the remaining 20%, 10% come directly from the vehicle manufacturer through the franchise dealers on a unified and controlled pricing platform, fitted normally alongside other repair or service activities in order to minimise driver disruption.
The remaining 10% are supplied through tyre collectives such as Fit4Fleet and the Fleet Tyre Network, who operate on behalf of a number of independent tyre suppliers to ensure complete tyre fitment coverage across all areas of the UK.
What added services are available?
Both ATS and Kwik-Fit provide mobile fitting at the driver’s home, the office car park or any part of the country providing the driver is in attendance. This is a free service and is great in terms of convenience for the driver.