There are few things more critical for effective braking, acceleration, steering and cornering than the quality of your tyres. As a taxi driver you have the ultimate responsibility for making sure your vehicle’s tyres are legal and roadworthy. After all, having unsafe or illegal tyres on your taxi is simply an accident waiting to happen.
However, even professional drivers may not be aware of the need to have the best quality tyres fitted in the first place. Indeed, according to a survey by the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association, less than 0.1% of the tyres in the European market are top rated for both fuel efficiency and safety.
To help all drivers better understand how well different tyres perform, a new tyre safety labelling system was rolled out across the UK in May 2021.
Read this guide to learn about the new labels and how they could help you make a better choice when it comes to buying new tyres for your taxi fleet in future. We’ve also added some handy tips to help keep your tyres in the best condition – and to keep you on the right side of the law!
Taking care of your tyres is only one part of keeping you and your passengers safe on the road. Having the right insurance for a taxi in place is also a vital part of your business arsenal.
Tyre safety labelling was first introduced by the EU back in 2012 to provide drivers with information on tyre safety and their environmental impact. The labels are similar to the colour-coded classification system used for household appliances.
Tyre labels classify tyres for braking on wet surfaces, performance for rolling resistance and external noise. It was hoped this information would help drivers to better understand the quality of the tyres they’re buying – rather than just focusing on the price.
Acting on concerns drivers were not aware of the differences between the highest and lowest rated tyres, it was decided to look again at tyre safety labelling.
Not only have the labels been changed but they are now available to retailers online. There’s also an obligation to share the information with customers choosing tyres.
The plan is the changes will increase the uptake of tyres with better safety standards. It’s also hoped there will be improvements in energy consumption. After all, tyres in the top-performing classes for energy efficiency result in fuel savings and reductions in CO2 emissions.
There are several differences between the old and new tyre safety labels that we will look at below.
As a taxi driver you’ll be used to driving in a whole range of conditions where your stopping distance is paramount. Wet grip is an obvious measurement of safety that also appeared on the old labels.
However, the new tyre labels will feature new wet grip measurements that only vary from classes A to E. The previous F and G classes are merged to form a new class E. While the old class E becomes class D.
Choosing tyres with an ‘A’ rating for wet grip will give you the shortest braking distance, whereas an ‘E’ rating indicates the longest braking distance.
Just as with wet grip, the new tyre labels now only have 5 classes (A to E) for rolling resistance rather than the previous 7 classes (A to G).
An A-rated tyre will have a lower rolling resistance so less energy is needed to move the vehicle. This, in turn, leads to lower fuel costs – a key consideration if you’re running a taxi firm.
The fuel efficiency symbol now also includes an electricity symbol as well as the fuel pump. This emphasises that it applies to electric vehicles in the same way as it applies to traditional diesel- and petrol-powered vehicles.
With electric vehicles becoming increasingly popular among taxi drivers this is an important factor as it could extend the distance that can be covered between charges.
At the bottom left-hand corner of the new tyre labels, the noise class is now written using an ABC format, with the level of external noise in decibels stated above.
It’s hoped that the ABC categorisation will be clearer and easier for drivers to read and understand. The old labels used a sound wave graphic instead to represent the external noise class.
External noise now ranges from A (less noise outside the vehicle) to B (more noise). Noise levels in class C are no longer allowed.
To the right of the external noise symbol are two new symbols some professional drivers might find useful, particularly if you drive in certain areas.
If the tyres are suitable for severe snow conditions, then they will include a ‘3 Peak Mountain Snowflake’ symbol (also referred to as 3PMSF). You’ll also find this symbol on the sidewall of any such tyres.
There’s also a new ice grip symbol featured on Nordic winter tyres. These are designed for driving on roads with ice and packed snow. For the vast majority of UK taxi drivers these types of tyres will never be necessary – unless you find yourself on a truly remarkable fare!
Over the past couple of years, we all have got used to the appearance of QR codes on many products and areas of life. Likewise, the new tyre labels will now include a QR code in the top right-hand corner.
If scanned by a smartphone, it will provide you with extra information from a European Commission product database. This online platform is called the European Product Registry for Energy Labelling (EPREL).
And finally, there’s a new energy efficiency logo at the top to highlight to consumers that buying higher rated tyres could benefit you and the planet in the long run.
Don’t worry, there’s no need to panic! Of course you can still use tyres with the old labels. The tyres themselves haven’t changed in any way whatsoever, it’s just the labels. Indeed, all tyres produced before May 2021 will still have the old labels, so you might not come across them for a little while.
Whether you’re investing in the highest rated top-of-the-range tyres or more budget options it’s important to keep a careful eye on their condition.
With typical driving shifts lasting anything between 8 and 12 hours and the average taxi driver completing between 20,000 and 30,000 miles a year you really need to follow these tips!
First things first, it’s important to make sure you check your tyre pressure every week, including the spare. Over- or under-inflated tyres can have a significant effect on your car’s steering, handling, braking and fuel consumption. It can make them more susceptible to wear and tear and can even result in a blowout!
Safety charity TyreSafe recently highlighted the tragic story of young primary school teacher Megan Byrne who tragically lost her life in a traffic accident in 2020 due to under-inflated tyres.
While you can check the pressure at your local petrol station, as a professional driver it might also be worth investing in your own pressure gauge. Remember to do this when the tyres are cold to ensure you achieve an accurate reading.
Most taxis should have a sticker to tell you the correct tyre pressure for the vehicle. If you’re at all unsure about the optimum tyre pressure for your taxi, load and conditions then refer to the vehicle's manual for recommendations.
It’s important to complete a regular, close physical inspection of all tyres so you can be aware of any signs of unusual wear or damage as soon as they occur.
This can include cuts and cracks, bumps and bulges or anything embedded in the tyre like glass or nails. If you notice any of these problems, then get them checked by a professional and repaired or replaced if necessary.
Tyres with inadequate tread depth not only affect performance but also safety, especially in poor weather conditions. While the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, that isn’t a target! Anything under 3mm could potentially affect safety and needs to be considered for replacement.
If the tread is at or below the minimum depth, the tyre must be replaced immediately. After all, the stopping distance of tyres with 1.6mm of tread is double that of a new tyre with 8mm!
You can buy tyre tread gauges to help you assess the tread depth, or you can get more basic colour-coded tools to let you know if a tyre is legal or not at a glance.
A common test is to simply place a 20p coin into the main tread grooves. If you can’t see the outer band of the 20p coin when it’s inserted, then your tread is above the legal limit. However, if the outer band is still visible, then your tyres should be checked immediately by a professional.
When you perform the test, remember to check at least three locations around each tyre.
Overloading your taxi can have a similar effect to under-inflating your tyres. As well as affecting the handling and causing excessive tread wear, it could also cause a dangerous blow out.
If your tyres are not correctly aligned it can create uneven wear, make them more prone to damage, reduce your ability to control the taxi, and increase fuel consumption. Whenever you’re having your taxi checked at a garage, make sure they check wheel alignment and adjust if necessary.
As a responsible taxi driver, you probably won’t make a habit of mounting the kerb in any case. However, whether you need to pull up on a busy street or you’re trying to avoid an obstacle in the road, sometimes mounting the kerb is unavoidable.
To protect your tyres from harm, make sure you take care when doing so. Climb the kerb slowly at an acute angle and ensure you don’t scrape up the side of the pavement to avoid damaging your tyre sidewalls.
Practicing good driving habits is not only beneficial for your business but will also keep your tyres in the best condition possible. Excessive braking or acceleration, or constantly stopping and starting in traffic, can have a big effect on your tyres and cause them to wear quicker.
As well as practicing smooth driving, try to avoid any uneven road surfaces and hazards such as potholes. Read our guide to pothole risks and how to avoid these menaces of the road. Also make sure to drive over speed bumps carefully or else your wheels could be knocked out of alignment and the underside of the taxi damaged.
Failing to follow this advice could put you, your passengers and other road users at risk and also potentially invalidate a claim on your taxi insurance. However, driving with dangerous or defective tyres also puts you at risk of a fine of up to £2,500 and three points on your licence.
Be warned, that is per tyre, so four illegal tyres could mean a fine of £10,000 and 12 penalty points. Could your taxi business survive such a hit?
It’s not only your tyres that come under a lot of pressure over the course of a working day, so do you! That’s why the team of insurance specialists at Taxi Insurer is always looking to come up with ways to help lighten the load.
The taxi insurance we can arrange comes in many forms and can cover everything from single vehicles to entire fleets. Public liability insurance and employers’ liability insurance can also usually be added.
In addition, we can offer no claims bonus protection and a 24-hour claims management service.
Get a quick quote for taxi insurance today.
Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.