Thousands of costly punctures on motorways could be prevented

Thousands of costly punctures on motorways could be prevented, according to Bridgestone study.

Thousands of costly and dangerous punctures on motorways across England can be prevented in minutes if commercial fleets checked their yards for bolts, nails and screws, according to a study by Bridgestone.

The tyres and mobility solutions firm has revealed the results of a two-year study, carried out in partnership with Highways England, into debris-related punctures across five of its biggest fleet customers in England.

Using overhead satellite heat maps and painstaking daily checks, Bridgestone discovered 504 items of debris across the five sites, 200 of which were ‘medium to high risk’ hazards.

In light of this latest research, Bridgestone is urging commercial fleets to use magnetic road sweepers, driver walk-around checks and daily visual inspections of their yards to significantly reduce the risk of costly punctures. The depots that didn’t use a road sweeper as part of their housekeeping practices had the highest number of debris collected. 

Bridgestone’s north region technical manager Gary Powell led the Fleet Debris Study and hopes the findings will prompt commercial fleets to implement some simple inspection measures to keep their drivers safe and make significant savings - both in terms of expense and time.

“We’re extremely proud of this study, as it gives the biggest insight yet into the risks that are present on forecourts every single day,” said Powell. 

“The aim was to determine the amount of debris present in fleet depots and to ascertain the risk and we believe we have a body of work that removes any ambiguity when it comes to commercial fleet yard management.

“Higher amounts of debris collected at some of the depots inspected could be attributed to the lack of good housekeeping and tyre husbandry practices. It was noted that depots which employed a road-sweeper were successful at significantly reducing the amount of debris and specifically high-risk debris items like bolts and nails.”

The presence of 102 high-risk and 98 medium-risk items of debris in this research validates the findings of their 2018 report, which found that 56% of the tyres analysed had failed due to road hazards including penetrations due to sharp objects. 

The highest amount of debris accumulated across the five fleets was in the vehicle washing areas, which could be the result of parts becoming dislodged as vehicles were being washed. Considerable debris was also found in loading and unloading bays, which Bridgestone believes could be the result of drivers sweeping debris off their vehicles.

The latest figures (for 2021) reveal there were 1,759 personal injury collisions recorded, of which 491 were because of defective or illegal tyres (IAAF, 2023). Reported Road Casualties GB report also reveals that 21 people died as a result of being involved in incidents where vehicle defects were identified as contributing factors. In total, 418 people were killed or seriously injured because of incidents where vehicle defects were identified. Of those, 111 were due to tyres alone (Department for Transport, 2022).

Mark Cartwright, head of commercial vehicle incident prevention at National Highways, said: “Just as charity starts at home then puncture prevention also clearly starts at the yard. 

“This report is so valuable in drawing the attention of truck and van operators and owners to their responsibilities in ensuring they aren’t damaging their tyres before joining our roads. We would strongly encourage operators to ensure their tyre damage isn’t self-inflicted.”

Bridgestone’s Fleet Debris Study is the first of its kind to be compiled and follows its 2018 Tyre Debris Study Report. The study is part of the company’s commitment to road safety and is part of its broader corporate commitment, The Bridgestone E8 Commitment.

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