Highways England, the government company which operates the country’s motorway network, has teamed up with motorway services operator Welcome Break and drive-over tyre technology developers WheelRight Ltd to run the free service within the motorway service area between junctions 16 and 15 of the southbound M6 at Keele in Staffordshire.
The pilot project, initiated by Highways England’s national incident prevention team, aims to make drivers aware of any issues with tyres before they get back on the motorway, reducing the potential for anything from minor tyre-related breakdowns to catastrophic, high speed blow outs resulting in injuries and deaths.
Keele was chosen because Highways England incident figures show that this area of the M6 is particularly prone to tyre-related breakdowns and incidents. Across England, there are 3,600 wheel or tyre-related incidents on the country’s motorways and major A roads every month.
The project was launched in April this year for an initial 3 month trial period but it has been so successful – now testing over 1,000 vehicles a week – it has now been extended until Thursday 31 December.
Under the scheme, drivers stopping off for a break at the services can drive their lorry or car through one of 2 dedicated sensor stations which instantly assess each vehicle’s actual tyre pressures. The sensors then provide the driver with a print out detailing the inflation of every tyre.
The whole process takes just 30 seconds with the sensor stations offering a self service facility – although WheelRight’s on site ambassadors are on hand to offer help and advice to all drivers.
Both the printed read out and the ambassadors will give advice on the correct pressures for individual vehicles. Inflation facilities for both lorries and cars are also provided at the service area, so drivers can take immediate action in the event of a poor tyre pressure reading.
John Walford, Highways England’s Incident Prevention Manager, said:
The primary cause of commercial vehicle tyre failure is under inflation. Tyre-related problems are a major factor behind routine breakdowns and other, more serious incidents on our motorways and major A roads, leading to congestion, injuries and in some cases fatalities.
The associated costs, particularly in terms of congestion, are a brake on economic performance and this project is tackling the issue head on by alerting drivers to issues and allowing them to sort those out before leaving the services and resuming motorway journeys.
Rob Mckie, Chief Executive Officer at Welcome Break, said:
We aim to be at the forefront of our sector and ensure customers have a high quality experience at our sites every time. Part of this is ensuring drivers are ready to continue their journeys safely after they leave us which is why WheelRight was such an interesting opportunity.
It’s gone down very well with customers and could potentially prevent a major accident, making it an easy decision to extend the project in Keele.
Government figures suggest 1 in 12 HGV tyres is dangerously underinflated with the figure 1 in 8 for cars. Many car drivers and commercial van and lorry drivers do not know the correct PSI for their vehicles, although they can also get advice on that at the pilot sensor stations.
Many commercial drivers also leave tyre maintenance to their depots and do not check pressures themselves with hard to reach tyres, on the inside of axles for example.
Highways England’s incident prevention team is also investigating ways of quickly scanning vehicles, especially lorries, for other issues such as tyre tread depth, overheating brakes or axles which can cause lorries to break down suddenly, leading to congestion.
The WheelRight pilot at Keele is free to car, van and lorry drivers alike and more information is available on their website.
Members of the public should contact the Highways England customer contact centre on 0300 123 5000.
Journalists should contact the Highways England press office on 0844 693 1448 and use the menu to speak to the most appropriate press officer.