Vehicle breakdowns hit five-year high

Latest breakdown data comes as average age of UK cars continues to rise

Vehicle breakdowns hit five-year high
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There were more vehicle breakdowns on motorways and major routes last year than there have been for half a decade, new figures from Highways England reveal.

An investigation by Auto Express revealed 224,225 recorded breakdowns between April 2018 and 2019, up from 189,256 four years earlier in 2014 to 15.

Breakdowns were up a fifth in the last two years and increased 14.8 per cent in 2018/19 compared to 2017/18, figures released to Auto Express following a freedom of information request show.

The surge in recorded breakdowns comes as the average age of cars in the UK has increased from 7.8 years in 2015 to 8.2 in 2018, and is up from 6.8 years in 2003.

Ageing vehicles

Traffic volumes have remained broadly stable over recent years, increasing just 0.2 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017, indicating the breakdown increases are due to ageing vehicles, rather than larger volumes of traffic.

Friday remains the busiest day of the week for breakdowns, with 16 per cent of breakdowns recorded on Fridays in 2019/18.

Highways England highlighted that the breakdown figures relate only to incidents the organisation was involved in or had awareness of.

The agency also said that “almost half of all breakdowns are caused by simple mechanical problems which could be avoided with simple checks and nearly a quarter are caused by tyre problems.”

Recovery operator campaign for red lights

Meanwhile, campaigners from the roadside recovery industry have claimed the figures on motorway breakdowns have significantly bolstered the case for increased protections for roadside rescue and recovery operators – including the right to use red warning beacons.

Commenting on the data, spokesperson for Safer Roadside Rescue and Recovery, Richard Goddard said: “The admission by Highways England that breakdowns are increasing is vindication for recovery operators who have been anecdotally claiming they need more protection to cope with increased breakdown frequency.

“More breakdowns means more recovery operators.

“The government should take the immediate and cost-free step of permitting recovery operators to use red flashing warning beacons.”

Roads Minister, Michael Ellis MP announced last month that the Department for Transport (DfT) would be reviewing the evidence base for the benefits of recovery operators being permitted to use red flashing warning beacons.

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  • #182842 Reply

    It’s more likely due to lack of maintenance rather than ageing vehicles, .4 of a year older average vehicles are unlikely to equate to a 14.8% breakdown increase, whereas there is a noticeable slow down in parts purchases in my industry so presumably the repair industry is suffering similar downturn.

    #182843 Reply
    Steph Savill

    My findings are that some motorists confuse MOTs and servicing, only doing the essential ie the MOT. And a record number are avoiding their MOT it seems but surely they can be traced/chased?

    #182844 Reply
    graham cox

    totally agree with steph savill our mot bay is at a standstill despite our reminder system and no service work because customers do not want to spend
    why are the police not stopping vehicles without mot and tax ???

    #182845 Reply

    I agree that a lack of maintenance is more likely to be the cause but also wonder how reliable some of the newer cars are – so many electrical gremlins now put vehicles into ‘limp mode’ resulting in people not driving round ignoring the warning lamps like they used to. Also, ever more complex vehicles getting ever cheaper in real terms will definitely not improve reliability.

    #182847 Reply
    Philip Dunmore

    All good points above but I think Alan is close to the real problem. As the more complex cars reach the bottom end of the market owners often cannot afford proper maintenance or DIY is not practical. We have also noticed a lot of vehicles coming out of lease and service contract schemes that have had little or no maintenance. This must affect the reliability of the car park as a whole.

    #182849 Reply
    Mark Worsley

    Just a thought…
    A lot of these vehicles no longer have a spare wheel. So how many of these call outs are people with punctures or damaged tyres? As above, maintenance is clearly down so bald tyres are just not being seen and replaced.
    Is this not a waste of recovery time, money and more importantly recovery operators safety? A few pence saved by the manufacturers to risk people’s lives, waiting on the side of main roads for the recovery.

    #183072 Reply
    Peter Miles

    In reply to Steph Savill’s post there are a lot of cars out there not registered to any owner or simply, as far as the authorities are concerned, simply don’t exist on the database. Then add in those with cloned/stolen registration plates and although nobody (obviously!) knows the figures I understand it comes to quite a lot.
    I read an article some time ago about speeding tickets from cameras and it said that around 15% of them come up as either registration unknown or with no registered keeper. The police said that in that case they can do nothing so the tickets get binned.
    Terrible situation but that is the reality. And you can bet those cars are not MOT’d, insured, taxed or maintained. And probably not driven too well either!

    #183176 Reply
    Eddie Bamber

    If breakdowns on the motorway are increasing, surely this means that we need a hard shoulder ?. The Government have taken them away and introduced ‘smart’ motorways because they say that vehicles are more reliable now and therefore less likely to break down. You can’t have it both ways.

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