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LETTERS to Fleet News’ editor John Maslen.

Tyres: don’t sacrifice safety for cost

SIR – I read with interest the article entitled ‘High-speed tyres make costs soar’ (Fleet NewsNet February 10).
Several years ago, fleet associations attempted to get vehicle manufacturers to provide ‘basic’ cars with no frills specifically for fleets in efforts to reduce costs.
Then, the argument was related to tyre size rather than the tyre’s speed rating.
While it is true that many car manufacturers on some models fit higher specification tyres for aesthetic appeal rather than what the vehicle performance demands, it can be dangerous to make sweeping statements regarding minimising the speed rating of tyres to the maximum vehicle speed or even worse the national speed limit.
Speed capability is only one aspect of tyre performance and higher speed rated tyres offer better ‘all round’ performance even when the tyre size is the same as a lower speed rated tyre. The original equipment tyre specification is in most cases selected to cater for the car’s overall performance, not only in terms of its maximum speed but also, for example, its acceleration and handling. Furthermore, they form an integral part of the design of its suspension, braking and steering systems.
In addition, given that vehicles with higher speed capability also tend to accelerate faster, the stiffness of the tyre sidewall can be higher than with a lower speed-rated tyre. The vehicle manufacturer caters for this in the suspension design. If this relationship between tyre and suspension is altered, eg. when a tyre of lower speed rating is fitted, the vehicle will behave differently under acceleration and cornering and particularly so when accelerating or braking whilst cornering. This can only compromise safety, which should be the first and foremost priority for any fleet operator.
The UK is one of the very few European countries which does not recognise tyre speed symbols in law.
In Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden it is a legal requirement for both the speed symbol and load index of replacement tyres to be equal to or greater than those of the original fit tyres.
All of these countries recognise this as an important factor in the vehicles overall safety. A point overlooked in the article is that with many car models, different tyre and wheel options are usually offered and if fleets want to focus on cost reduction, they could choose the lowest cost option as specified by the vehicle manufacturer. My final message is ‘do not compromise vehicle safety in the interests of costs’. It is long overdue that the UK falls in line with the majority of Europe in recognising the significance of tyre speed symbols within construction and use regulations, which after all exist to maintain and improve road safety.

Roger Sanders
General Manager Technical Services, Continental Tyre Group

We need traffic cops, not more speed cameras

SIR – I write regarding your lead story on February 10 ‘Speeding reaches epidemic level’.
The real issue is not the level of enforcement on the roads at all. The real issue is the absence of enforcement.
The best deterrent is undoubtedly the presence of the marked police traffic vehicle. In Bedfordshire, we have seen a reduction in traffic police of more than 60% and in their place a proliferation of mobile and fixed camera sites. On my 12-mile journey home last night, I counted 25 vehicles with defective headlamps, and numerous others breaking the law by using their front fog lights, despite visibility being in excess of 1,000m.
What other offences were those law breakers committing? Tyres? Insurance? Licence? MoT?
The cameras will do nothing to prevent this type of behaviour, and as long as the idiots slow down for the known camera sites, it is highly unlikely that they will be stopped or punished for their actions.
Drivers must be dealt with at the time the offence is committed. It is useless issuing a fixed penalty two weeks after the offence.
I have seen the looks on my drivers faces when we have received tickets via the post for two week old offences. They do not recall being on a specific road at a certain time. Hence, this does absolutely nothing to deter them from repeating their errors. Bring back the traffic cops now! Make the roads truly safer for my family to use.

David Footitt
NEWS Transport

Educating drivers will tackle our speed problems

SIR – I am not surprised at the new findings concerning speeding, particularly for fleet drivers.
The problem is that we spend so much time sitting in jams that once the road opens up we naturally make up as much use of that time as we can.
A 70 mph speed limit on motorways is particularly frustrating. New cars are safer and quieter and do not contribute to driver fatigue as quickly as their 1960/70s counterparts did when the limits were first set.
Further, there is a wider issue with bad motorway driving and while lane-hogging has been highlighted, enforcement action is never taken.
How many times have you been stuck behind a lorry overtaking another lorry in the outside lane travelling at a very similar speed?
This, combined with low-speed driving, tailgating and undertaking ultimately slows traffic down, raising frustration levels and again compelling drivers to drive faster to make up lost time.
We need much wider driver education. To some degree this happens with fleet drivers but very rarely to private drivers once they have passed their basic test.

Roy Gudgeon
Fleet manager, Mid-Kent Water

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