How Car Companion can pump us up

How Car Companion can pump us up

by Liam Kerr
article from Tuesday 30, May, 2017

IN RECENT WEEKS I have been asked to comment on various road safety measures, such as average speed cameras on the A9 and A90. What is equally important as these initiatives is what individual road users can do. While the government clearly has an important role to play in promoting road safety, we all must take some responsibility for taking simple and easy steps to reduce risk.

By the end of 2016, there were 37.3 million vehicles registered for use on the road in Great Britain. According to Tyre Safe:

  • 1 in 10 cars in UK are running on illegal tyres;
  • 9 out of 10 tyres are incorrectly inflated; 
  • 75 per cent of blow-outs are caused by incorrect pressures;
  • Such incorrect tyre pressure costs the average UK driver £150 each year as a 7 psi underinflation decreases fuel efficiency by about one mile per gallon;
  • A 20 per cent underinflated tyre can reduce the life of that tyre by up to 30 per cent.

According to Renault, 6 per cent of fatal motorway accidents are caused by sudden failure of under-inflated tyres.

Michelin in 2015 studied over 23,000 cars in the UK and concluded that not only are underinflated tyres putting drivers at risk but that they are wasting £246million worth of fuel and releasing an extra 538,000 tonnes of CO2 into the air.

Jamie McWhir of Michelin recently said: “Seriously underinflated tyres are dangerous, they use more fuel, they wear out quicker and they cause the car to produce more pollutants and greenhouse gases.”

UK Government agencies and the tyre industry spend considerable time, effort and money trying to raise awareness and seeking to influence a change in behaviour towards maintaining correct tyre pressures.  TyreSafe, in particular, has been campaigning to raise awareness of the importance of tyre safety for over 10 years, launching a Tyre Safety Month campaign each year and providing an opportunity for organisations to discuss the value of correct tyre care and maintenance.

Despite these significant Government and Industry-funded national awareness campaigns, widespread petrol station tyre pressure equipment, an increase in marketing of personal pressure check equipment and the growing number of in-vehicle Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems, the vast majority of UK drivers do not make regular checks to ensure correct tyre pressure on their vehicle.  

The rationale of awareness campaigning is sound but cannot achieve desired outcomes on its own. 

One possible, highly innovative, solution has been developed by Grahame Paterson, CEO & Executive Director at Transition Extreme Sports Ltd in Aberdeen. This is significant: Transition is ostensibly a climbing centre, skatepark, BMX centre, with martial arts, high ropes and even a graffiti wall but one of its aims is using “urban” sports and their cultures to attract and engage the local youth population.

Grahame sees addressing road safety through the lens of youth, unemployment and empowerment. He proposes “Car Companion”: a social enterprise concept based on offering a quality, mobile, car-condition check and tyre pressure adjustment service to car owners and company fleets.  

The idea goes that Car Companion signs up businesses as “promoters” of the scheme (through intranet, staff forums etc.). During the working day, as employees’ and customers’ cars sit idle in the business’ car park, Car Companion workers deliver an industry-approved (such as the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair) tyre check/pressure adjustment service to those individuals who sign up. Grahame suggests this as an entry point service, leading to more comprehensive checks through an on-line car diary scheduler.

Car Companion would use mobile equipment and a database of manufacturer recommended tyre pressure levels for each car, which is checked on site against the car's registration plate (e.g. using a free Tyre Pressure iPhone app) or windscreen display bar-code issued on sign up to the scheme. 

The result? Safer cars being regularly checked with no disruption, effort or waiting for the driver.

But the scheme goes further: Car Companion would contract a training provider to deliver the training and development programme for the “operatives” which would combine transferable skills and aptitudes with transport and vehicle themed learning, and turn out quality assured services for car owners. That provider effectively creates opportunities for displaced adults and young people to receive an inspiring training and work experience thus moving towards employment and opportunity.

There are no shortage of cars and business car parks in which to operate. Each graduate might initially work for an “owner-business” whilst the operation runs then, if sufficiently confident and of a mind to do so, sets up their own “franchise”, connected in to the Car Companion hub, seeking clients (and trainees) for their own business.

There is also potential for linking in to other complimentary businesses such as car washing and valeting; safety awareness and/or “green motoring” promotion, which might all ultimately become add-ons to the basic “checking” business.

This scheme can be targeted insofar as it combines raised awareness of the issues surrounding poorly maintained vehicles, incorrect tyre pressures, etc. with actions that deliver desired social and economic outcomes.  Its business model is designed to create training and employability opportunities for people within the community where car owners work or shop.  It would not only offer a hassle-free at-work car check and adjustment service, but look to attract users or 'members' to the scheme through adoption of it by their employers as part of their corporate social responsibility and community investment activities.

Thus we have a significant, under-addressed problem which is being countered by a convenient, low-cost / high impact solution that could reduce vehicle maintenance costs, improve fuel economy, contribute to safer driving conditions, reduce CO2 emissions and support local training and development programmes for young people.

Something for the Scottish Government to investigate further? I think so.

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