When you consider that the only parts of a vehicle which actually touch the road are four areas of tyre each about the size of your palm, it can be too easily taken for granted.
Worn or illegal tyres can lead to extra fuel costs and more accidents, all adding to the usual headaches faced by fleet operators, so the introduction of a sturdy tyre policy is of utmost importance.
Van drivers should be instructed to give their tyres a quick visual inspection each morning before setting out to flag up any immediate problems such as cuts or nails, while a more detailed check, including tyre pressures, should be made each time the vehicle is filled with fuel.
But how many fleets actually follow this advice? Too few, according to Peter Lambert, sales director at Kwik-Fit Fleet, which won the Supplier of the Year title at the 2012 Fleet Van Awards.
He says: “Initial tyre safety checks by Kwik-Fit technicians on LCVs result in 15% of vehicles inspected requiring an average of 1.75 tyres, usually because the tyres they are replacing are illegal.
That means an average of one tyre requires replacing for every four vehicles inspected.
“With more than 40% (1.6 million) of approximately four million business vehicles on the UK’s roads calculated to be LCVs, it means that extrapolated across the fleet there could be as many as 400,000 vans being driven with at least one tyre which is illegal.”
Tyres inspected by Kwik-Fit technicians were typically under- or over-inflated, tread was below or close to the 1.6mm legal minimum across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tyre and around the entire circumference, tyre wear was irregular – which may indicate a wheel alignment or vehicle loading problem – and tyre walls were damaged.
Lambert warns: “Tyres in poor condition compromise road safety. In the event of a crash involving a vehicle being driven on business, tyre condition will be one of the issues looked at by investigating police officers.
"A failure to have a record of checks carried out could leave companies wide open to court action.”
Some commercial vehicle fleets ensure drivers undertake daily vehicle checks – including tyre condition – and best practice would indicate that drivers should be reminded to check tyre condition every time they fill up with fuel.
Lambert said: “The European Union estimates that 9% of all road crashes involving fatalities are attributable to tyre under-inflation and an estimated 41% of accidents with physical injuries are linked to tyre problems.