Many motorway related tyre failures could be prevented with simple, routine checks

George Barrow
April 24, 2018


Many motorway incidents related to tyre failure could be prevented if drivers carried out simple checks, according to research released to tie-in with the start of the CV Show 2018 today (24 April).

The joint research conducted over 18 months by the Highways England and tyre company Bridgestone found three-quarters of tyre failure samples analysed showed either poor inflation or debris penetration issues.

These, according to the partners, are problems that could be potentially avoided with better tyre husbandry.

Richard Leonard, Highways England’s head of road safety, said: “This important research confirms our view that road users must play a bigger role and get into the habit of checking tyre pressures and tread depths and looking out for nails and other debris stuck in tyres before setting out on journeys. These simple checks could save lives.”

While motorways are the safest type of road in the UK, 32 people were killed or seriously injured in motorway accidents in 2016 due to illegal or faulty tyres.

Both Bridgestone and Highways England are partners in the multi-agency road safety charity Tyresafe. 

They worked together to carry out the research over 18 months between the beginning of 2016 and last summer.  

During the project, staff working for Highways England at depots across the West Midlands provided more than 1,000 pieces of tyre debris from motorways to a technical engineering team from Bridgestone to analyse. 

The findings from 1035 tyre segments retrieved from the M1, M6, M40, M5 and M42 revealed:

  • 56% of tyres failed due to road/yard debris penetration
  • 18% failed due to poor inflation
  •  8% failed due to poor vehicle maintenance 
  • 1% of tyres failed due to manufacturing defects
  • 1% of tyres failed due to excessive heat
  • 16% of the tyres couldn’t be specified to one particular problem

The tyre debris was taken from cars, vans, commercial vehicles and motorbikes, with under-inflation of tyres a key theme, along with poor vehicle maintenance, both of which accounted for more than a quarter (26%) of the entire sample. 

In addition, the cost to the economy from a two-hour delay on a busy stretch of motorway following a two-lane closure stands at £135,360 and approaching £1.5m for a three-lane closure lasting up to four hours.

Bridgestone technical manager Gary Powell, who oversaw the analysis of the debris with field engineer Peter Moulding and the rest of the firm’s technical department, said: “With proper vehicle inspection and maintenance programs, many of the failure methods noted should be detectable and preventable. 

In light of these results, we would also advise that tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are fitted to vehicles which don’t benefit from this technology already. It will assist with the detection of penetrations and deflations.”


About the Author


George Barrow

George has been writing about nearly anything with wheels for the past 15 years and is the UK jury member of the International Van of the Year and International Pick-Up Award.

Share this article

Vehicle Type