With the predicted bad weather so far showing no signs of materialising in what would be the UK’s third severe winter in a row, many fleet managers may be still in a quandary as to whether winter tyres are essential or optional for their fleets this winter.

Cold weather or winter tyres have been shown to most effective when the temperature falls below 7 degrees Centigrade, and, when braking on an icy road at 20mph, they are reputed to stop a car 11metres sooner than one with summer tyres. In wet conditions too, they are also more effective than conventional tyres and stop a car 4.8m sooner from 60mph.

Many of the leading tyre distributors and several motor manufacturers have recently announced they have ordered in extra supplies of winter tyres or developed winter tyre programmes in anticipation of another severe winter.

Jon Tandy (Inset), business development manager at Mycompanyfleet, the automotive arm of HR software giant NorthgateArinso, said that in assessing whether winter tyres were a viable option for their own fleets, fleet managers needed to carry out a careful and considered cost benefit analysis.

‘We have had warnings of another severe winter and many of the tyre distributors have announced that they have ordered in extra supplies of winter tyres,’ said Tandy. ‘But are they a cost effective option for most fleets?’

‘Many suppliers , including some of the motor manufacturers, are now offering to include the cost of storage of summer tyres within the price of a winter alternative or at a small additional cost, which may mean they are most cost effective than before.

‘But the only real way to identify whether they are viable from a cost viewpoint is to use fleet software to model a typical fleet scenario and calculate what the additional costs are compared to the savings that can be made in terms of reduced accident and repair costs.’

Accident and repair costs increased generally during the winter months, said Tandy, typically by 25-50%, due to poor driving conditions and longer periods of darkness.

‘Fleet managers have to balance the additional tyre costs against the likelihood of increased accident rates without the tyres, at a time of year when accident rates rise quite dramatically.

‘Obviously costs vary from vehicle to vehicle, but winter tyres seem to be on average around £40-50 per tyre more expensive than their summer equivalents, although guidelines suggest they may well last two to three winters depending on mileage.

‘However ,that needs to be balanced against the cost of an accident caused by the cold weather conditions, Again it is impossible to be exact because accidents vary so much, but incidents can cost from a few hundred pounds to several thousands, or even a write-off.

‘If switching to cold weather tyres saves one accident from occurring, the tyres will undoubtedly pay for themselves – but perhaps more importantly drivers will also be safer into the bargain,’ he added.