2016 National Tyre Distributors Association Conference
Tyre Safety Month is an appropriate time in which to host the second annual NTDA Tyre Industry Conference. Rob Marshall joined the movers-and-shakers at the Vox Conference centre in Birmingham yesterday to find out the latest gossip and information.
Fewer items are more critical to vehicle safety than tyres and road safety organisations (including this one) are keen to re-emphasise the point. Even so, tyres possess an image problem in the eyes of the average driver. Being neither glamorous, nor ‘sexy’, one would think that an invitation to attend the 2016 National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA) Conference might translate to an excuse to spend a day catching-up on some much needed 40-winks, at a veritable snooze-fest.
As with all things technical, the topic becomes rather more interesting beyond a superficial investigation. Just like most companies, the British tyre industry is operating within a confused political environment. Like the rest of us, it ponders about the precise implication of ‘Brexit Means Brexit’ and how will Mrs May’s new government roll-back our former PM’s preference for de-regulation and create new rules that will benefit both the industry and the consumer.
These issues, and more, were deliberated at the conference, which was attended by selected invited delegates from all over the UK, sponsored by Avon tyres and hosted by the NTDA’s charismatic Chief Executive, Stefan Hay. While mergers and acquisitions have continued in the tyre industry throughout 2016, the implications of legislative changes, enforcement and connected vehicle technology, on not only the industry but also the consumer, were discussed.
From a safety perspective, the most vitriolic statements were reserved for part-worn tyres, which Mr Hay described as, “a cancer to our business and a menace to the public”. With the majority of part-worn tyres not conforming to the required checks, as demanded by legislation, the NTDA is lobbying government for second-hand covers to be banned completely, especially as it has been reported that discarded tyres are being resold to the public without the checks being performed.
While many members of the public realise the importance of correct tread depth, of particular interest is a development in technology that has made tread depth checks as easy as driving over a ramp, which displays the reading on a digital screen. The main benefit is that checks do not mean having to grovel on one’s hands-and-knees, brandishing either a tyre depth gauge, or a 20p piece. While such ramps have been available to the workshop trade only, Sigmavision announced it’s Beyond the Workshop strategy, which offers free tyre depth and pressure checks in public places. It could not provide GEM with a list of where those locations would be, at the time of writing, so we shall update you when the information becomes available.
Waste tyres have always posed an environmental challenge and Séamus Clancy shared his experience of the situation in the Irish Republic. Commenting that there are “too many rogues” operating within the tyre industry, he also expressed dissatisfaction that the public purse has to fund the tidy-up of illegal dumping.
Currently, the British tyre industry is self-regulating with regard to waste tyres, especially as there is no European directive covering the issue. Interestingly, looking overseas, any formal actions taken in European countries have been instigated by the tyre industry.
Repak Ltd., of which Clancy is Chief Executive, will launch its own end-of-life tyre compliance scheme on 1st Jan 2017 in Ireland, which introducers a €2.80 surcharge that is added by its members to every new tyre purchase to fund the end-of-life collection, treatment and environmentally-friendly processing. An audience member criticised the scheme as being too expensive and emphasised that the issue of tyre dumping is less prevalent in England, Wales and Scotland, as 90% of tyres are recycled, but Mr Clancy disputed the accuracy of the figures.
The MoT Test
The DVSA’s Ian Marsh updated the trade delegates about many changes that have happened to the MoT Test since the online-based system was overhauled last year. While usability, security and technical accuracy is being improved for the garage technician, the main news is the DVSA will be sending MoT Test reminders to the general public, who are required to opt-in, so that the agency does not step-on-the-toes of garages that offer this service already to their customers. This is a major and welcomed development and we shall update you of this service as it is rolled-out.
Speaking to GEM afterwards, Marsh agreed that the MOT’s minimum standards for tyres remain very lax and that a borderline tyre that has passed the inspection may still not be safe. His advice is to treat MoT advisory notices about tyres as mandatory.
Both Professor David Brown, from the University of Plymouth, and Neil Purves, from Bridgestone Europe, explained that tyres have become even more important, as vehicles themselves become more complex. Advances in connected technology for fleet markets especially means that tyre pressure monitoring equipment can stream live data to the tyre companies, which can advise the operators about pressures and temperatures under certain usage conditions. Considering that many HGV tyres fail due to overheating, there is an obvious safety benefit here, although it was revealed that on-board tyre tread depth measuring equipment remained a longer term ambition, sadly. Provided that the live data can be interpreted and acted upon quickly, the customer can benefit from, for example, being able to have a leaky tyre repaired rather than replaced but this also places an impetus on tyre dealers and breakdown services being more reactive in the future.
Yet, the usual downsides of data streaming could not be addressed, including the issue of ownership data, a potential cartel being created by car manufacturers, the ever-prevalent problem of security and, of course, privacy.
The conference ended with closing speeches on issues that affect most industries, pensions, the issues of attracting and retaining good employees and new qualifications, prior to an impressive and motivational speech by former TV presenter and rally driver, Penny Mallory.