Tyre issues main cause of motorway breakdowns

According to new data, tyre issues are responsible for almost half of all motorway breakdowns, highlighting the need for drivers to focus on tyre safety.

A Freedom of Information request to National Highways by motor insurance loss adjuster Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA), part of the QuestGates Group, has revealed that 47.6% of all breakdowns on UK motorways and A-roads over the last three years were caused by tyre issues.

In February, National Highways confirmed that there were 5,934 tyre-related incidents on the Strategic Road Network (SRN) in 2021, rising to 7,095 in 2022 and 7,762 in 2023, including blowouts which led to serious collisions. 

Detailed analysis of the figures from National Highways shows that tyre issues are way above any other cause of vehicle breakdown on major roads, with the second-most common issue, loss of engine power, responsible for 18.6% of issues.

SRN Breakdown Causes 2021-23

1Tyre issue47.6%
2Loss of power18.6%
4Out of fuel7.0%
Source: CMA analysis of National Highways data

“From a fleet and insurance perspective, this new data gives a great insight into highway claims costs,” said Philip Swift, Technical Director at CMA. “The first thing we noted was that the cause of many incidents was not specified. Stripping these out, the true scale of the tyre problem became shockingly obvious, they have increased year-on-year since 2021 and now cause roughly half of all highway breakdowns.

“Carriageway closures cause huge disruption and can also lead to sizeable insurance claims involving infrastructure repair costs. Unlike out of fuel, for tyre issues you have to ask: Who was negligent? For years, we have been highlighting a worrying rise in ‘swerve to avoid’ and ‘tyre blowout’ claims. If an incident was caused by debris that should have been cleared, far from accepting blame, there could well be a case for making a ‘red claim’ for damage to your vehicle.”

Worrying increase in tyre issues

The increase in tyre issues when it comes to motorway breakdowns highlights a lack of understanding on how important checks are by drivers.

This increases the pressure on the aftermarket, which needs to lead the way when it comes to ensuring vehicles remain safe. This can be done by offering free tyre checks with every service or repair, and by educating customers on the importance of wear and tear, to reduce tyre issues.

Campaigns such as the recently-launched ‘Make Time for Tyres’ initiative by The Motor Ombudsman will go a long way to helping this cause, with videos and posters available for garages to help start the conversation. However, It is clear from this data that something must be done, as drivers do not seem interested in preventing tyre issues themselves. 

CMA’s full Freedom of Information (FOI) request to National Highways can be viewed here.

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