Fleets can cut costs and boost road safety by inflating tyres with nitrogen

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Fleets can prolong tyre life, boost fuel economy and improve the road safety of their company cars and vans by inflating tyres with nitrogen instead of air.

A study by the Department of Transportations National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States concludes: The primary result expected from nitrogen inflation is to enhance retention of tyre pressure over time, which will help maintain tyre performance properties such as rolling resistance, handling, and durability.

Safety-focused Kwik-Fit Fleet, which continues to see increasing demand from companies for tyre safety checks to be carried out as organisations get to grips with their occupational road risk management responsibilities, offers company car and van drivers the option of having tyres filled with nitrogen at all of its 650 centres nationwide.

The inflation of tyres with gas mixtures containing more than 90% nitrogen has long been claimed to be beneficial to tyre performance. However, tyres are typically inflated at dealerships and on garage forecourts with air that contains approximately 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% other gases.

In the 90-day static laboratory NHSTA test, the inflation pressure loss for new tyres inflated with nitrogen was approximately two-thirds of the loss rate of new tyres inflated with air. The average 90-day pressure loss rate for tyres inflated with air was 2.13% per month, and the average for tyres inflated with gas containing 95-99% nitrogen the loss was 1.39% per month.

With numerous UK studies highlighting a failure of drivers, including company car and van drivers, to check their tyres regularly - best practice suggests at least one a month - filling tyres with nitrogen will improve road safety due to the ability of the tyre to maintain the correct pressure for longer than if filled with air.

Indeed, current police figures sourced from the Department for Transport show that 73% of tyres are inflated to the incorrect pressure and that 86% of cars involved in traffic accidents had tyres with incorrect pressures.

However, the NHSTA report entitled The Effects of Varying Levels of Nitrogen in the Inflation Gas of Tyres on Laboratory Test Performance warned: It should be noted that inflation with nitrogen merely slows the rate of diffusion of gas from the tyre and is not a substitute for regularly maintaining tyre pressure.

Mike Wise, head of Kwik-Fit Fleet, said: Research shows that correctly inflated tyres can last for up to 25% longer, and also improve fuel economy by up to 5%.

Tyres are the only part of a vehicle that are in contact with the road so it is essential that they are in tip-top condition to maximise road safety. Maintaining tyre pressure at the level recommended by vehicle manufacturers is a safety essential.

However, we know that either through oversight or laziness checking tyre pressure regularly is not a frontline priority for many drivers. Therefore, inflating tyres with nitrogen, while not a substitute for regular pressure checks, will help. In turn that will maintain tyre performance and therefore improve safety, tyre life and fuel economy.

Anyone looking to take advantage of Kwik-Fit Fleets nitrogen tyre inflation service should pop into their local Kwik-Fit centre, no appointment is necessary. The cost is 1 per tyre.

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