First it was smoking in company cars, now it’s winter tyres. Transport bosses in Scotland are taking the lead on investigating how swapping to cold-weather rubber could keep commercial vehicles moving more effectively next winter.
Tyre manufacturers and Transport Scotland are meeting this week with key personnel from the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) to discuss the matter further.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond had already commissioned a cost-benefit analysis on the use of winter tyres for good vehicles last December and Transport Scotland spokesman confirmed work on that was progressing, adding: “The purpose of the latest meeting was fact-finding, aimed at increasing our knowledge on winter tyres both for HGVs and other vehicles.”
Transport Scotland, an agency of the Scottish Executive, has no power to make winter tyres compulsory because road safety remains under Westminster’s remit.
But the harsh winter weather has focused attention on the tyre technology and speaking prior to the meeting Chris MacRae, FTA’s head of policy for Scotland, said the Arctic conditions had shut roads that hadn’t been closed in most people’s lifetimes.
“The impact on the logistics and supply chain industries was extreme and as a result Scottish ministers have taken a keen interest in winter tyres,” he said. “However, the benefits have not been well quantified, and experience of them on goods vehicles isn’t that high.”
MacRae said he would be lobbying to make sure winter tyres weren’t seen as a single solution. “My concern is there could be too much focus on them, rather than on snow forecasting, gritting and clearing roads,” he explained.
Stressing these were his personal views, ACFO director Stewart Whyte said there would be questions about which vehicles would need to use winter tyres. “You might have a company based in Grimsby, but then one of its vehicles goes to Dumfries once a week. Would it apply to that operator?”
He said any commercial decision on swapping was a simple one. “You have to balance whether this is statistically a ‘once-in-10-years’ week-long event, against the cost of every tenth year you lose a week’s productivity. This is a classic example of an area where individual companies need to carry out a risk assessment and manage it accordingly.”
Fleet operators would be keen to offset the cost of buying two sets of tyres and changing them every six months. Income would also be lost when each vehicle is off the road having them swapped.
Author: Richard Yarrow