Option 2: Standard fit all-year round
Most vehicles come with standard/summer tyres, according to tyre manufacturers, and the easiest policy is to run these until they need replacing and then fit like-for-like.
This is the cheapest option and avoids the storage and fitting costs involved in using cold weather tyres during the winter months.
As Andy Hartley, head of third party supply at Lex Autolease, points out: “The time-consuming and costly business of storing and regularly fitting new tyres is something that many businesses can ill afford.”
It’s questionable whether the UK climate calls for cold weather tyres to be fitted, depending on which region the fleet operates in.
“Drivers are unlikely to be faced with the consistently cold temperatures required to optimise the use of winter tyres or the need to drive in difficult off-road conditions,” says Hartley.
Fleet managers may be able to advise drivers not to drive when conditions are severe.
Drivers will not get maximum tyre performance during the winter months.
Continental points out that a standard tyre will have a higher wear rate in winter through the hardening of the tread compound at cold temperatures. Braking distance will also be longer on wintry slippery roads.
Peter Fairlie, group sales director at ATS Euromaster, adds: “When the temperature starts to drop below 7°C – as is common between October and March, particularly overnight and during commuting hours – tyre performance will drop.
“It’s also essential for fleet managers to understand that it is not just these extreme wintry conditions which can reduce safety on the road.
"Even cold, damp roads can dramatically affect the performance of standard tyres, leading to an increased accident risk.”
Case study: Siemens
Commodity manager, fleet: Paul Tate
Number of vehicles fitted to: 3,500
Siemens has no plans to fit cold-weather tyres to its cars, preferring to rely on the manufacturer-fit standard rubbers.
Instead, company policy is to advise drivers not to travel when road conditions are bad.
“We don’t want people putting themselves at risk by trying to get into the office,” says Tate.
“Also, if you do have them fitted and you stop suddenly, if the person behind you doesn’t have them, they will slide into you – so it doesn’t stop the accident.”
He believes the only way cold weather tyres will take off in the UK is if the Government legislates for them.
“That way the manufacturers will have to prepare for them – at the moment there is a lack of supply and storage is also an issue,” Tate says.
Case study: University of Birmingham
Post, portering and transport manager: Monica Guise
Number of vehicles fitted to: 96
The University of Birmingham would not currently consider switching from standard fit tyres to running standard/summer tyres and cold weather tyres.
The fleet of just under 100 vehicles does low mileage – an average of 8,000 per year, with some vehicles doing just 4,000 miles - and the majority operate around the university’s three campuses.
“We grit our own roads and it’s rare that our vehicles are put in a situation where the roads are icy,” says Guise.
The fleet also includes an assortment of vehicles capable of coping with the winter weather such as pick-up trucks.