Debate surrounding imposing a legal age limit to tyres used on coaches and buses is rumbling on, some four years after a company had its PSV (public service vehicle) operator licence revoked by the Traffic Commissioner following the death of three passengers.
A subsequent inquest found that the accident, back in September 2012, was caused by the catastrophic failure of the front left tyre which was the result of deterioration due to its age. The tyre in question was 19 years old.
The government response was to issue guidance, in December 2013:
“As a precaution, the Department for Transport strongly recommends that tyres over 10 years old should not be fitted to the front axles of buses and coaches. Such tyres should be fitted only to the rear axles of vehicles as part of a twin tyre combination.”
Now, the ‘Tyred bill’, brought by Maria Eagle MP, aims to establish a ban on the use of tyres over 10 years old. The bill is the result of the work of a campaign group called ‘Tyred’, led by Frances Molloy, the mother of Michael Molloy, one of the victims of the accident, and was due a second reading in parliament this month. This has been delayed after the Department for Transport announced further research is to be carried out this year to ‘seek to understand what kind of relationship exists between the chronological age of the tyre and its structural integrity’.
This has angered campaigners as it has further delayed what many believe to be a clear position in respect of concerns regarding the use of tyres over the age of 10 years anywhere on PSVs. Research, carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, suggests that older tyres predominantly degrade from the inside out which, in turn, can lead to the inner layers of the tyre delaminating from the steel belts inside. This can, in some cases, result in exploding tyres.
Many see this as an unwanted and unnecessary delay in implementing a position in law that echoes a widely accepted position amongst industry experts. The Department for Transport commissioned research is due to be carried out in 2018 with a report produced by the end of the year. In the meantime, in the absence of any clear defect to a tyre, it is not illegal to use tyres over the age of 10 years. If, however, the 2013 recommendations of the Department for Transport are ignored and tyres over that age are fitted to the front of a bus or coach, there is real potential that both the driver and the operator will find themselves in front of the Traffic Commissioner with severe sanctions imposed.
From both a regulatory compliance perspective and, more importantly, a public safety perspective, our transport law specialists would advise against using tyres over the age of 10 years in the midst of the current climate of debate in the area. Our transport law specialists are on hand to assist both drivers and operators with any concerns regarding DVSA examiners and in respect of matters called for public inquiry before the traffic commissioner. For advice please call us on 0175 321 6399.