The 18-month study, released at last week's Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham, found that more than 30 people were killed or seriously injured in motorway accidents in 2016 due to illegal or faulty tires.
The research found that almost three quarters of tire failure samples analysed by Bridgestone involved poor inflation or debris penetration issues – problems which could be potentially avoided with regular checking.
During the project, staff working for Highways England at depots across the West Midlands provided more than 1,000 pieces of tire debris from motorways to a technical engineering team from Bridgestone to analyse.
The findings from 1035 tire segments retrieved from five bust motorways revealed:
56% of tires failed due to road/yard debris penetration
18% failed due to poor inflation
8% failed due to poor vehicle maintenance
1% of tires failed due to manufacturing defects
1% of tires failed due to excessive heat
16% of the tires couldn’t be specified to one particular problem
Tire debris was taken from cars, vans, commercial vehicles and motorbikes, with under-inflation of tires a key theme, along with poor vehicle maintenance, both of which accounted for 26% of the entire sample.
With 32 people killed or seriously injured in motorway road traffic accidents in 2016 due to ‘illegal, defective or under-inflated tires’ Bridgestone and Highways England said the figures show that simple tire checks save lives.
Among some particularly alarming samples were a temporary ‘space-saver’ spare tire being run to destruction, while a number of potentially lethal and illegal ‘string’ repairs were also found on car tires, which are completely unsuitable at any speed, let alone 70 mph speeds on motorways.
“With proper vehicle inspection and maintenance programmes, many of the failure methods noted should be detectable and preventable,” said Bridgestone technical manager Gary Powell, who oversaw the analysis of the debris.
“In light of these results, we would also advise that tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are fitted to vehicles, which don’t benefit from this technology already. It will assist with the detection of penetrations and deflations,” added Powell.
“Road users must play a bigger role and get into the habit of checking tire pressures and tread depths and looking out for nails and other debris stuck in tires before setting out on journeys. These simple checks could save lives,” said Richard Leonard, Highways England’s head of road safety.