Tyre pressure monitoring systems, or TPMS, have been required by law to be placed in all passenger vehicles manufactured within Europe since 2014. These systems alert the driver when tyre pressure drops, ensuring that vehicles are operating with optimal tyre inflation at all times, and giving notice of flat tyres or punctures. |
For some time now, there have been discussions whether to make TPMS a legal requirement for HGVs too. Such legislation would make a functioning TPMS system a part of the MOT test, and would mean that all HGV drivers would, in theory, be operating with the safety and efficiency of well-inflated tyres at all times. However, while TPMS could be useful, there are a number of problems with the idea of simply extending existing legislation to HGVs.
A lorry carrying a full load uses nearly a third of its fuel to overcome rolling resistance. It’s using all this fuel with fully pumped tyres, and as the tyres soften, fuel consumption soars. Therefore, a system that monitors pressure drops can save HGV drivers a great deal on money and could help drive a broader decrease in carbon emissions.
There’s also the safety issue to consider: according to Highways England, around 3,600 accidents every year can be linked to low tyre pressure. Due to the large, heavy nature of HGVs, it’s especially important for HGV drivers to avoid such occurrences, as accidents involving a HGV are far more dangerous than those involving smaller vehicles.
The main problems with implementing TPMS in HGVs are practical difficulties. For example, the TPMS in the cab would have to be compatible with the TPMS in the trailer, meaning that before TPMS in HGVs is of any practical use, a universal standard of compatibility would have to be established.
Additionally, the TPMS systems currently required by law can have as much as an hour latency before they alert the driver. This would mean that HGV drivers could be driving on entirely flat tyres before the TPMS kicked in, thus reducing the system’s effectiveness. In order to maximise utility, rapid response TPMS should be used in HGVs.
A final problem is the cost and effort associated with yet another system to maintain, although the fuel efficiency savings, lower carbon emissions, decreased breakdown frequency, and safety improvements of using TPMS would likely offset this problem for most, if not all, HGV drivers.
So there you have it: the prospect of introducing TPMS in HGVs is indeed attractive, whether from an environmental, fiscal or safety-oriented standpoint, and we may well see an increase in TPMS use in HGVs in the coming years. However, simply extending existing legislation to cover HGVs is not feasible, primarily because of compatibility issues. So universal use will most likely only be an option after universal compatibility has been established. Until then, the necessity for frequent trailer changes will render TPMS use untenable for most lorry drivers.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching HGV drivers with available jobs. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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