National Tyre Distributors’ Conference 2017

Posted on October 18th, 2017 by Rob Marshall

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Approximately 200 executives from all over the UK gathered in Milton Keynes last Thursday for the 2017 National Tyre Distributors’ Association (NTDA) Conference and GEM was there to report on the latest safety messages.

Part Worn Tyres

The most pertinent announcement was the NTDA’s ‘Manifesto For Change’. Aimed at improving safety within the UK tyre industry, the themes contained within the 44-pages’ document have reciprocal benefits for us all.

Unsurprisingly, much of the Manifesto was dedicated to a call for a total ban on part-worn tyres, which the NTDA has been emphasising for several years. While the majority of members sell new tyres and (unsurprisingly) support a ban on previously-used covers, I share their view, after being sold unsafe part-worns as a student many years ago. Despite proving the safety advantages, the NTDA has found considerable external resistance to implementing a total ban and has suggested that a third-party certification scheme would introduce safety controls that are not in place currently – mainly because the current requirements are not enforced. Suggestions include introducing a Used Tyre Quality Mark and raising the tyre tread depth of Part Worn tyres offered for sale. Yet, a full ban remains the ultimate goal.

Maintaining the latest autonomous technologies

From a technical viewpoint, a session from Hella, a company that supplies components to both carmakers and the independent repair trade, highlighted the practical challenges of maintaining the various camera and radar systems. These technologies permit modern cars to have a 360-degrees field of vision. Unfortunately, the calibration of such systems is affected when certain maintenance and repair tasks are carried-out and, because they are the ‘virtual eyes’ of certain autonomous functions, such as steering-assist, adaptive cruise control and emergency braking, any maladjustment poses a safety risk. We shall examine some of these points in greater detail in a future blog.

Inflation equipment accuracy

GEM has highlighted the dangers of running a car with incorrect tyre pressures many times before and advice was given to garages, by a trade supplier of pneumatic tools, on how to enhance vehicle safety by supplying motorists with good quality air inflators. Worryingly, it was revealed that there are neither formal approval systems for tyre inflation product accuracy in the UK, nor requirements for regular inspections, to ensure tyre inflator accuracy. This is in stark contrast to the rest of Europe. The issue of declining fuel station forecourt numbers was also voiced.

While the technical intricacies of electric vehicles was a discussion point (and fewer than 1% of independent technicians are trained to work on them), the importance of fitting wheel bearings correctly was emphasised, from a safety perspective. Should a replacement part be fitted incorrectly, or damaged, the complete wheel and tyre could come off the car, as it is driven.

Motorway developments – including All Lane Running

A representative from Highways England explained how lanes are closed on the latest Smart Motorway network, if a vehicle becomes immobilised. There was a call to remind the public that cameras are mounted to the gantries and painted yellow. Not only do these detect excess speed but also they spot and record vehicles that drive in lanes that have been closed (indicated by a red ‘X’ on the gantry), as well as parking in refuge areas in non-emergency situations – both of which are endorsable offences.

Of specific interest to the tyre industry is that Highways England has uncovered a 5.5% increase in tyre-related incidents, between 2012 and 2015. The figure relates specifically to motorways and, therefore, has a greater chance of being caused by poor tyre maintenance than by other factors, such as surface condition.

From a business perspective, further issues were discussed in front of delegates, including how to recruit new technicians to the fold, enhancing both apprenticeships and further education, in addition to dismissing the industry’s image as low skilled. Updates on environmental issues, especially tyre recycling, were also provided. Pertinent business advice included how to make vehicle repair outfits more appealing for female customers, aspects of dealing with consumer complaints in the event of a deadlock and insurance issues.