Tyres account for a significant proportion of the maintenance costs involved in running a car and van fleet. How much depends on how they are driven, whether they reach the end of their tread life or are replaced prematurely due to damage, and a fleet’s tyre replacement policy.
There is no obligation to replace like-for-like with brand, and many companies will adapt fleet replacement policy to the age of a vehicle and how much longer it will remain on the fleet. However, tyres are critically important in the safe performance of a vehicle, and there is a real risk of false economy in choosing cheaper replacement tyres.
1. In most European countries the legal minmum tread depth requirement for passenger cars is 1.6 mm, according to Continental.
2. Many safety-conscious fleets instruct drivers to change tyres when the tread depth is between 2mm and 2.5mm. In the UK, only 16% of the UK’s blue-light (police, ambulance, fire service) fleets allow the tyres on their emergency vehicle fleets to go below 2.5mm of tread.
3. The EU Tyre Label provides a comparison between the performance of different tyres in three key areas: fuel efficiency (measured from A to G); grip in the wet (rated from A to F); and noise (quiet, moderate or noisy).
4. It’s important to understand the numbers and letters on a tyre wall when choosing a replacement tyre, because they relate to both tyre size and specification. For example, 205/55 R16 91V means: the tyre is 205mm wide; the sidewall height is 55% of the tyre width; the tyre is Radial (rather than cross ply); the wheel rim is 16 inches wide; the tyre has a load rating of 91, which refers to the maximum weight the tyre can carry; and the V is the speed rating, which must match or exceed the maximum speed of the vehicle.
5. The original equipment tyres have been selected by the vehicle manufacturer because they are well suited to that vehicle. These are typically premium tyres from brands like Michelin, Pirelli, Continental and Bridgestone. However, there is no obligation to replace like-with-like. Larger fleets and leasing companies negotiate preferred terms with tyre manufacturers, often in tandem with fast-fit garages.
6. Tyre fitter Kwik-Fit reports that most car fleets do replace tyres on a like-for-like basis, but van fleets are fitting a higher percentage of mid-range tyres because so many of their tyres are replaced due to damage, rather than reaching their minimum tread depth. Mid-range and budget tyres will not have the same performance characteristics as a premium tyre, and may not have the same longevity.
7. Tyres have to contend with different weather. In Germany, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Bosnia-Herzegovina, winter tyres are compulsory between certain dates during winter conditions (ice, snow, slush).
8. The development of all season tyres, such as the Michelin CrossClimate, avoids the cost and vehicle downtime of changing from summer to winter tyres and back again.
9. Correct tyre inflation is essential for tyres to deliver their optimum performance in terms of both grip, braking and fuel consumption. Michelin advises a monthly check of tyre pressures.
10. Mobile fleet tyre fitting companies offer a checking service, visiting company car parks to inspect tyres and identify those that need replacement tyres.