Only 16% of the UK’s ‘blue-light’ services allow the tyres on their emergency vehicle fleets to go below 2.5mm of tread before being changed, despite them remaining legal to...

Only 16% of the UK’s ‘blue-light’ services allow the tyres on their emergency vehicle fleets to go below 2.5mm of tread before being changed, despite them remaining legal to 1.6mm. In fact, new research1 revealed today by Kwik Fit, the UK’s leading automotive servicing and repair company, shows that on average the emergency services change their vehicle tyres at a tread depth of 2.74mm.

The research shows that almost three quarters (73%) of the UK’s police, fire and ambulance services change their vehicles tyres at a tread depth of 2.6mm to 3mm. At the upper end of this band, the tread is nearly double the UK’s legal minimum requirement of 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tread around the complete circumference of the tyre. Ten percent of forces go beyond this, changing vehicle tyres between 3.1-3.5mm (6%) and 3.6-4mm (4%).

The findings of Kwik Fit’s study, which was a result of a Freedom of Information request made to every police force, fire and rescue service and ambulance service in the UK, reveal that of the 95 organisations responding to the request, two thirds (67%) have a formal policy in place, while the remainder (33%) have an accepted practice.

The ambulance services have the strictest protocols, with 73% having a formal policy laid down. 82% of the ambulance fleets either mandate or recommend tyres are changed at a tread depth between 2.6mm and 3mm. This compares to 68% of fire brigades and 66% of police services having a formal policy, and 73% and 71% of the services enforcing or recommending tyres are changed between 2.6mm and 3mm respectively.

The study covered a total emergency vehicle population in excess of 42,000 across the UK2 giving an accurate representation of the immense focus the emergency services place on tyre condition.

The findings are very encouraging, given the significant effect tyre tread depth has on braking distances and road holding in wet conditions, however this is something which is neglected by many motorists. Previous research3 by Kwik Fit found that one in eight (12%) drivers never check their tyre tread depth on a regular basis. It is vital that motorists start getting into the habit of regular vehicle safety checks, similar to those carried out by the emergency services.

Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “The emergency services have the highest standards when it comes to safety and this is something all motorists should be trying to replicate. Checking tyre tread depth is often forgotten by motorists, yet it has a vital role in safety as our tyres are the only thing in contact with the road.

“Our research has shown that the emergency services uniformly change their vehicle tyres at a much earlier point than the legal limit as a tyre’s performance starts to deteriorate well before it becomes illegal. When on a ‘blue light’ call our emergency services cannot compromise on safety, but we don’t think any other motorist should either, whether it’s a motorway run or just a trip to the shops.”

Kwik Fit provides free tyre checks at all its centres where trained technicians will carry out a full inspection on the tyres’ general condition, tread depth and tyre pressures, as well as giving drivers advice on tyre care.

Drivers can also find a full range of advice and tips on car maintenance by visiting For the latest news and updates from Kwik Fit, customers can also follow the company on Twitter at @kwik_fit.

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