Reinventing the wheel: a closer look at commercial vehicle safety

As part of a series of blog posts, we look at different elements of commercial vehicle wheel safety. In the first instalment, we review the current landscape, and explain why we think there needs to be more of a focus on wheels as a safety critical item.

Author: Kevin Ryan – Chief Technical Officer, MWheels Ltd.

With 120,500 registered articulated vehicles in the UK in 2015, there are more on the road now than ever before. With this, the likelihood of accidents involving HGVs inevitably rises. In fact, HGVs were implicated in more than half of fatal motorway accidents, and one in five fatal accidents on A-roads in 2013 – and this figure continues to rise each year.

The Transport Research Laboratory looked into this in more detail in 2006 and uncovered that there were between three and seven fatalities a year – just from wheel loss alone. Since then, there has not been any more research into the number of wheel detachments from heavy vehicles or the number of accidents caused by wheel failure. So, how can we be sure about the current scale of the problem?

At the same time, awareness regarding the impact wheels can have on commercial vehicle safety remains low. This includes how to spot problem wheels. For example, it is not widely known that the use of spider – or non-circumferential – hubs by vehicles to reduce weight can actually reduce fatigue life of the wheels by up to a half. This is due to a lower tolerance of load stresses and strains. The result? Costly repairs, and a potentially dangerous situation for drivers and other road users.

However, it can be difficult to know if you have the right wheel for your vehicle, as some don’t have sufficient markings or tests carried out to ensure road safety. A widespread challenge in the aftermarket is that there is currently no stamp that says a wheel is compatible with the vehicle to which it is being fitted – only a manufacturer stamp. It’s also true that the quality standards of wheels can vary widely. And if you’re not buying from a trusted supplier, it can be difficult to know if the wheels you’re purchasing meet the minimum standards required.

Knowing the extent of the problem is the first step. To find out how to spot problem wheels and how to make sure your fleet stays safe on the road, read our best practice guide – available to download now.

Wheel safety white paper

Wheel safety remains a critical issue for fleets, but it continues to be largely overlooked in industry. This white paper discusses: