The safety of thousands of road users is being put at risk due to the government’s failure to properly enforce strict laws on the labelling of tyres, Unite, the UK’s largest union, has warned.

In 2009 the European Union introduced regulations (1222/2009) which required all tyres for passenger, light commercial and heavy commercial vehicles to carry labels which recorded their fuel efficiency, grip in wet conditions and noise levels. The regulations came into effect on 1 November 2012 and are not being enforced according to Unite.

In recent years the British tyre market has been swamped with inferior but cheap tyres made in Asia. The tyres also include the EU labels but there have been no official inspections of whether the labels on these tyres actually comply with the EU regulations.

Following a Freedom of Information request made by Unite it has been revealed that the reason for the lack of enforcement is because the necessary secondary legislation was not passed.

The FOI response from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) which oversaw the Office for Product Safety and Standards (which was the agency responsible for upholding the regulations and which has now been abolished) said: “Between February 2013 to April 2017, there was no UK Statutory Instrument in place and therefore no statutory powers to inspect retail premises or take actions regarding non-compliance.”

Since April 2017 the responsibility for complying with the regulations lies with the Department of Transport but there remains no evidence that the relevant legislation has been passed or that inspections are being undertaken.

As well as the safety concerns and environmental issues the inferior Asian tyres are also threatening the jobs of British workers employed in the tyre industry, as the companies which are properly following the regulations are unable to compete on price.

Unite has now launched its ’Steer Well Clear’ campaign which will seek to force the government to take action to end inferior Asian tyres being dumped on the UK market.

Unite national officer for rubber Tony Devlin said: “The government’s failure to introduce simple legislation is potentially placing thousands of lives at risk.

“The failure by the government to ensure that the EU regulations are being complied with is placing drivers in danger, has serious environmental consequences and is endangering the jobs of British workers, employed by companies that are playing by the rules.

“Customers buying tyres will be alarmed that the official looking labels on some of the products could be virtually meaningless.

“The government needs to immediately act to introduce proper inspections and enforcement of the existing regulations and then adopt workable measures to ensure that inferior Asian tyres are no longer allowed to flood into the UK.”

Unite’s convenor at the Michelin factory in Stoke Robert Taylor, said: “This government’s incompetence is staggering. Workers fear losing their jobs, yet the government couldn’t even be bothered to introduce inspections to ensure that imported tyres comply with EU regulations.”

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.