Watch out for tyre safety

altDid we ever stop to think that your vehicle’s tyres may have been a major cause of accidents?

 Most Malaysian motorists do not seem to be aware about the dangers of driving with faulty tyres or tyres that are not properly maintained. One of the important factors of tyre maintenance is proper inflation.

In this regard, air kiosks at petrol stations are not calibrated, which means that pumping up at an improperly functioning or maintained air pump can mean poor inflation, whether under-inflation or over-inflation.

In response to CAP’s queries related to tyre pressure, the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism said air kiosks at petrol stations are not calibrated because the air is provided free and calibration is “mandatory only for equipment used in trade”.

Since we have a very high rate of traffic accidents, CAP believes that a high percentage of the accidents may have been caused by wrong inflation pressure. CAP wrote back to the ministry to say that even if air provided by petrol stations is free, it is vital to calibrate the pumps to reduce the accident rate.

Imagine the ministry’s reply: That it would “do something about it” if we could provide the statistics on the number of accidents caused by poor tire inflation!

CAP wrote to the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) to request for the statistics. MIROS complied with the request, but CAP found the statistics to be insufficient and inaccurate, and therefore useless.

MIROS admitted to the flaws, saying the present system of data collection by police could not support the evidence we were seeking.

The team investigating a road accident to determine the cause of tire failure has to be equipped with the right knowledge, tools and experience. However, police investigations are basically for insurance claims.

According to figures from the Road Safety Department Malaysia (RSD), there were 6,700 deaths from road fatalities in 2009 – which is no mean figure, even if the RSD prefers to emphasise that the number of people sustaining injuries in road accidents has reduced by 42% from 54,000 persons in 2004 to 31,000 in 2009.

It must also be noted that only last year, RSD director-general Datuk Suret Singh announced that faulty tyres “are like time bombs waiting for accidents to occur”.

According to him, faulty vehicle tires have a 15% chance of causing accidents and in view of this, the department would work with the industry to ensure all tyres meet safety standards by June 1, 2010.

Well, nothing has been heard further on this!

And, CAP is also wondering, what happened to the promise of the RSD that it would coordinate programmes to educate consumers against using worn out tyres or the cheaper retreads?

We call on the government to act, for faulty tyres could well be one of the major causes of accidents on our roads!

We call upon the relevant authorities, including police investigating road accidents, to look into these areas of accidents caused by tyre failure:

  • Air pressure;
  • Tyre type;
  • Maximum allowable load for tyre and whether vehicle was overloaded;
  • Tread depth;
  • Date of manufacture of tyre;
  • Whether the tyres were properly installed, aligned and balanced;
  • Vehicle type;
  • Road condition and debris;
  • Speed of vehicle;
  • Time of accident;
  • Weather conditions at site of accident; and
  • Environment.

The data collected has then got to be classified under different categories to facilitate easy analysis and determination of the causes of tyre failure.

In the case of retread tyres, the current applicable standard for retreads is MS224: 2005. It is therefore vital that stringent quality control is observed, to ensure retread tyres rolling out of the factory are of the highest safety and quality standards.

While the government and the relevant authorities take their time to act, we call upon all consumers, especially those owning vehicles, to observe these measures:

wear-indicator1. Tyre groove depth: Whether you are using an original or retread tyre, make sure the tyre groove depth is at a safe level. Worn out tyres are a definite no!  Leading European car manufacturers insist that tyres must be replaced when the tread surface reaches the same level of the tread wear indicator.

2. Tyre Pressure: The recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle will be found in the vehicle handbook. Or, check with a reliable service centre or a good tyre outlet. Check tyre pressures every week and adjust when necessary, for low tyre pressures reduce tyre performance and increase fuel consumption.  Underinflation is the leading cause of tire failure. A tire can be as much as 50% underinflated before it is visibly noticeable. Not only are under inflated tyres more prone to damage and failure, but they can lead to higher fuel costs by as much as 8 cents per litre or RM1/100km (RM240/yr *If an average user travels 24,000/year)

3. Visual Inspection: It is important to visually check the condition of tyres on a regular basis. Lumps and bulges may indicate the tyre has been damaged internally. If there is any doubt as to the condition of a tyre, it should be removed immediately until it has been properly checked.

4. Balancing, rotation and alignment: Having your tyres balanced, rotated and properly aligned periodically is important not only to the longevity of the tyre but also to the safety of the driver and the performance of the car.

We in Malaysia do not have specific laws on tyre care. Perhaps it is time to look into this area. British law states that the tyre tread depth must be a minimum of 1.6mm measured in a band comprising the central 75% of the tread width and continuous around the tyre circumference.

The tyre must also be maintained in a condition so that it is fit for the purpose the vehicle is being used and must not have any defect that may cause danger to the road surface or damage to persons in the vehicle or to other road users.

In Britain, vehicle owners stand to be fined a maximum of £2,500 for each and every tyre offence, plus three penalty points for the driver as well.

CAP calls on the authorities and motorists to take tyre safety seriously.  The Ministry of Domestic Trade Cooperatives and Consumerism should also make it mandatory for air kiosks at all petrol stations to be calibrated regularly.

Letter to Editor, 6 September 2010