Modern Wheels and Tyres

Modern Wheels & Tyres

From being, historically, a thin rim of metal that keeps the spokes of a wheel together, the modern tyre has developed into a highly engineered product. Whether it is the only point of contact between a vehicle and a road, travelling at maximum UK road speeds or significantly faster at motor racing competitions, or providing appropriate support and traction in a field cultivating crops, the modern tyre and those working within that industry are crucial in almost every aspect of modern life.

Development of the Tyre

Whilst the wheel and a form of tyre have been around for centuries, if not millennia, it was not until the 19th Century that two significant developments occurred and progress has been rapid since that time. In 1844 American, Charles Goodyear received a patent for the process of vulcanised rubber, chemicals being added to natural rubber to produce a hardened and substantially more durable product. Secondly, in 1847, Scotsman Robert Thomson lodged a patent for the first pneumatic tyre although it was not until 1888 that another Scot, John Boyd Dunlop put the process to use on his son’s pedal bicycle. It is interesting that until recently the names of these two gentlemen were brought together in one of the major tyre suppliers in the UK, Goodyear Dunlop Tyres.

Some Contemporary Issues

From a bicycle tyre in 1888, we now have applications ranging from small garden barrows and machines, through car, van, truck to earthmover and specialist machinery. The largest tyre is something that is over 5.5 tonnes in weight and over 4.2 meters tall. Tyre labelling, although perhaps not fully understood, rates tyres by noise emission, fuel economy and braking capabilities. Tyre management on HGV fleets, in particular is seen as a key environmental and capacity concern. Frequent husbandry is employed to ensure maximum longevity through twinning and turning tyres to produce even wear and best fuel economy. Different patterns and compounds are used to suit the application such as long haul or shorter delivery type driving.

As general distribution becomes a more complex and time sensitive operation, delayed deliveries through tyre defects can be costly – systems have been developed to monitor, predict and pre-empt tyre failures. The modern tyre technician, whose trade originated in the wheelwrighting workshops, is now required to undergo many levels of training not limited to tyre knowledge but including safe working practices within a workshop and crucially at the roadside.

NTDA – National Tyre Distributors Association

The Company is pleased to have good links with the trade body for the tyre distribution industry, the National Tyre Distributors Association. 

The NTDA is at the forefront of creating and maintaining gold standards for operating within the trade and it works alongside bodies such as Highways England & The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency in matters relating to roadside safety and tyre disposal issues. It represents the trade at local and national government level and has introduced a successful tyre technician licencing scheme for both roadside and centre based technicians.

Modern Apprentices

The Wheelwrights continue to strengthen links with the modern trade and sponsor the National Tyre Technician Apprentice of the Year Award, presented at the NTDA annual dinner.


The modern tyre trade seeks to be at the forefront of sustainability in its sector, recognising there are issues relating to used and part worn tyres, and a wider issue of micro-plastics and their residuality. Research and discussion continues as to how best to deal with these concerns.

Some Strange Facts About Wheels & Tyres

The largest tyre weighs over 5.5 tonnes and is over 4.2 meters tall.
The producer of the largest amounts of tyres each year is Lego!

There is still a “tyre on the moon”… left behind by the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.