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Matthew Smith, UK Director at Japanese tyre manufacturer Falken Tyres, explains what fleet operators within the care sector can do to ensure high standards of safety for their passengers.

The transportation of elderly or vulnerable patients means that the safety of ambulance and care transport vehicles should naturally be of the highest importance to fleet operators in the sector. As the key contact point between the road and the vehicle, tyres play a critical role in both the safety and comfort of patients. This is why those in charge of fleets need to consider tyre safety as the number one factor. Ignoring simple checks will not only hurt costs but can have catastrophic consequences. In 2013, a defective tyre was a factor in the death of an ambulance driver, which only amplifies how crucial it is to look aſter tyres. So what can operators do?


MAINTENANCE A huge amount of amount of time, dedication and effort goes into designing and developing tyres. Like many tyre producers, our highest priority is safety, providing the right levels of grip and performance. Once fitted, tyres need regular maintenance to ensure that they continue to perform as designed and that responsibility falls to the operator.

UNDER PRESSURE Tyre maintenance isn’t just about tyre

safety. According to Smith, by being just 20% under-inflated, a tyre can lose 18% of its working life because of abnormal wear. Overloading low pressure tyres can also cause failures, leading to a premature replacement and cost.

Overlooking pressure checks can be expensive. Daily pressure inspections are the best way to ensure proper running; once a week is the minimum number of checks when maintaining a fleet of vehicles such as care transport vehicles. Pressures should be examined and recorded, ensuring that the valve cap is present. Examine the tread depth across the tyre, have a look to see that the wear is even and there are no cuts or damage to the tread or sidewall of the tyre.

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Tyres can be a good early indicator of more fundamental issues with an ambulance. If you’re seeing excessive or uneven wear, it can mean that there’s an issue with wheel alignment or balance, brakes, steering or suspension, so sometimes further investigation is needed.


RIGHT CHOICE Leading tyre manufacturers now offer specific tyres to cope with the requirements of the job and the increasing payload of such patient transport vehicles. For vehicles converted from vans, there are tyres that feature technology such as stress-dispersion sipes to reduce uneven wear, and manufacturers such as Falken now offer ambulance fleets summer and winter tyres. In rural areas, where patients need to be transported on untreated roads, winter tyres can provide improved traction across a wider range of conditions. For fleets that run season-specific tyres, the care of tyres must extend to the tyres off the vehicle too.


In order for fleets to get the most from their tyres, Falken has come up with tips for patient care fleets.

• Check the pressures of all tyres before they leave the workshop, including spare tyres

• Check pressures when the tyres are cold

• Clean any dirt from valves and ensure there is no damage

• Remove any stones or other objects embedded in the tread

• Look for bulges, lumps or cuts to the tread and sidewalls

• Ensure there is no damage to the rim of the tyre

• If signs of uneven wear occur, review steering alignment

• Store spare tyres in cool, dry and clean areas away from direct sunlight

• Upright storage is preferable, or no higher than 1.5m/4.5ſt if horizontal

Stored tyres also need to be well maintained to ensure the properties of the rubber are not affected. Look for a cool, dry, clean environment away from ozone, grease or petrol. Keep tyres out of direct sunlight as this can cause degradation and reduce the lifespan, so also make sure they are covered. This will ensure a longer life.

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