Using older tyres will soon be an offence

Posted 25/06/2019 : By: Tim Ridyard

The government intends to introduce legislation that will make it an offence to use tyres 10 years or older on certain vehicles.

These vehicles are:

  • HGVs over 3.5 tonnes
  • heavy trailers, including semi-trailers, over 3.5 tonnes
  • buses, coaches and minibuses.

Smaller vehicles including cars, motor caravans or trailers (3.5 tonnes or under) and caravans (3.5 tonnes or under) will not be affected though of course there is an existing obligation to ensure tyres fitted are legal in all respects. Taxis and private hire vehicles may possibly become subject to the new laws in due course.

The impetus for this links back to two serious accidents in September 2012 and September 2017 in which three and five lives respectively were lost. In the September 2012 case tyre failure was a direct cause of the accident and in the latter tyre age contributed to the loss of lives.

The 2012 case led to the Tyred campaign for changes in the existing law. This was formed to pursue tyre age limit rules via the introduction of and enforcement of formal legislation, rather than reliance being placed on tyre manufacturer safety recommendations (such as not using tyres over 10 years old) or recommendations in commercial guides such as the DVSA Guide to Road Worthiness.

The Government’s conclusion that there should be a ban on tyres of 10 years or older is based on research identifying deterioration caused by moisture, changes in rubber hardness that causes cracking in tread areas and side walls and also expert evidence.

The government does not intend to prohibit re-treaded tyres that would continue to be permitted under existing regulations that govern them. The government does however propose non-use of re-treaded tyres of any age on steered axles, subject to what may emerge from its consultation.

Legislation and penalties

Any law change will be through the Construction & Use Regulations (there will be exemptions relating to agricultural motor vehicles, agricultural trailers, agricultural trailed appliances, broken down vehicles and tractors as well as vehicles of historical interest unless the latter are in commercial use in which case the new changes will apply).

It is anticipated that implementation of any new laws would be deferred for a three-month period to allow businesses to check their vehicles and change tyres if necessary.

It will be a requirement that there be clear visibility of tyre date markings on tyres, including twin wheel configurations (markings to be on the outer face and side walls).

It will be an offence to drive or operate a vehicle when any date markings are not present or are not legible.

The existing penalties for tyre non-compliance will continue with a maximum fine of Level 5 for offences relating to goods vehicles, minibuses and buses. In England and Wales this is now an unlimited fine (maximum £5,000 fine in Scotland and Northern Ireland). This is currently an endorseable offence (three penalty points) and further information with regard to penalties for any new or amended offences generally will emerge in due course.

It appears to us that in the event of an accident occurring, caused by or contributed to by an illegal old tyre after introduction of the new law, any criminal court will regard this as an aggravating feature and in fatal accident cases evidence of a higher level of negligence where manslaughter is alleged. In civil cases where damages are claimed it will also be relevant.

Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles

The government is not immediately proposing to include taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) in the new regime but during this consultation wants to gather views on whether or not to extend the proposals to those categories.

The consultation period runs from 23 June 2019 to 1 September 2019.

Main consultation questions posed by the Government:

  • do you agree that we should ban the use of first life tyres aged 10 years and older on all axles of HGVs, heavy trailers, buses, coaches and minibuses?
  • do you agree with our proposal, subject to the outcome of the consultation, to prohibit the use of re-treaded tyres, of any age on the steered axles of HGVs, buses, coaches and minibuses?
  • do you agree with our approach for re-treaded tyres (that their age should be defined from the date of the re-treading and those that were re-treaded 10 or more years ago should be subject to the same restrictions as first life tyres that are 10 years and older)?

Please note the information provided above does not constitute formal advice but is intended as general information in advance of likely changes in the law.

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