Memorandum by RAC (TEA 08)
TRANSPORT-RELATED EXECUTIVE AGENCIES OF THE
DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS
RAC Motoring Services offers a range of services
to customers including roadside rescue and recovery, traffic and
travel information, car servicing and repair, vehicle examinations
and temporary directional signs. We provide roadside rescue and
recovery for 6.2 million customers and attend over 2.4 million
breakdowns a year. Our aim is to become the first choice provider
of individual motoring solutions to our customers.
We are separate from the RAC Foundation, which
is an independent charity set up to champion the interests of
motorists and which runs a number of high profile media campaigns
and conducts research on safety, environmental and general motoring
Rescue and recovery (paragraphs 1 to 5)RAC
has a significant role to play in assisting the Highways Agency
in reducing congestion, and in promoting safer, more reliable
journeys. We would hope to be consulted at an early state on all
initiatives affecting deployment of our resources.
Breakdowns on motorways (paragraphs 6 to 12)RAC
has significant expertise in best practice on motorway working.
We are concerned to ensure that the Highways Agency continues
to protect and invest in the hardshoulder network, and that use
of the hardshoulder for running (ie at busy motorway junctions)
is only considered in exceptional cases. In addition, we have
serious concerns over any plans for the Highways Agency to operate
its own rapid reaction task forces for motorway vehicle recovery.
This would undermine breakdown membership organisations in addition
to confusing motorists, and could have serious knock-on effects.
RAC Signs (paragraphs 13 to 18)RAC would
welcome a consistent approach by the Highways Agency and its contractors
to temporary signage. This could be supported by more comprehensive
updating of its database of roads and contractors.
1. Rescue and recovery operators can play
a positive role in traffic and network management and RAC is keen
to ensure that the Highways Agency recognises our role.
2. Indeed, rescue and recovery operators
represent a fast incident management service. We remove broken
down cars which constitute safety hazards and can cause congestion,
with all the economic and environmental costs that this can entail.
It is vital that we can get to breakdowns as quickly as possible
and we are investing in technology to reduce our response times,
which are also key factors in customer satisfaction. On motorways,
speedy response is even more critical, given that the Highways
Agency's own research suggested that vehicles involved in collisions
on the hardshoulder have been parked for an average of only 11
3. Although we are not classified as an
emergency service, our service is essential to all our members
and it is also valuable to all other road users, whether individual
motorists, commercial vehicles or public transport. Moreover,
like the emergency services we have no discretion about the time
and destination of our journeys.
4. By attending to breakdowns quickly and
getting motorists on the move again (our patrols fix 80 per cent
of all our breakdowns at the roadside), we can help the Highways
Agency meet its objective of reduced congestion, reduced deaths,
more reliable journeys and less pollution. And the more congested
the roads become, the greater the impact of breakdowns on the
road network. The White Paper on the Future of Transport in July
1998 made explicit reference to our role by recommending that
consideration should be given to granting accredited rescue and
recovery operations higher priority in congested traffic.
5. At RAC we are keen to work in partnership
with the Highways Agency to see that this becomes a practical
reality and we have already opened a dialogue with them on this
and related topics. The Highways Agency has many ambitious plans
for developing its road network through its "Strategic Vision
2010" and early consultation on the Highways Agency on any
plans which may affect deployment of our resources, is very important.
We are pleased with the response that we have received so far
from the Highways Agency and we trust that this dialogue will
continue productively in the future.
6. The hardshoulder network was set up to
ensure the safety of motorists who have broken down on the motorway,
for people working on the road and for the emergency services.
Some 250 people are killed or seriously injured each year on hardshoulders
and some 77 per cent of those stopping do so because of breakdowns.21
For safety reasons, it is vital to retain the hardshoulder and
develop best practice guidelines for those working on the hardshoulder
to minimise the risk of injury for all involved.
7. While RAC recognises that reallocating
hardshoulders to exit lanes over small stretches of motorway at
very busy junctions (where traffic is already travelling more
slowly) can be desirable, particularly when tied to lower speed
limits, we do believe that this should be the exception rather
than the rule. Given our expertise in hardshoulder safety and
practice, we would wish to be fully consulted if any plans should
emerge for more extensive hardshoulder running or reductions in
hardshoulder width as outlined in the Highways Agency's "Strategic
8. In " Strategic Roads 2010",
the Highways Agency also promotes the role of rapid response teams
to provide speedy response to all motorists. The intention is
for such a service to be provided by the Highways Agency at no
cost to the motorist, which we would support. Motorists would
be recovered to safe havens where they would await their own breakdown
operator. However, the Highways Agency has acknowledged that a
charge may have to be made for this rapid response service once
a full cost benefit analysis has been conducted, or when the practice
becomes more widespread.
20 Survive Report21 Ibid.
9. RAC would have strong concerns about
such a development. Firstly, it would undermine the value of taking
out national breakdown cover, provided by rescue and recovery
operators such as RAC. It would also penalise those responsible
motorists who have provided for national breakdown risk (eg by
joining RAC) since, in an addition to their annual premium, they
would be obliged to pay again simply because they have had the
misfortune to break down on a road covered by a Highways Agency
rapid response team. This would clearly be a disincentive to taking
up national breakdown cover, with motorists relying instead on
calling out a local garage if they break down. This has significant
knock-on implications for congestion management elsewhere because,
when such motorists break down in say, city centres, they will
create greater road safety hazards since they will be at the roadside
for longer while they first try to identify a local recovery service
in addition to the normal waiting time.
10. RAC in partnership with the Survive
Agencies is developing an accreditation scheme for rescue and
recovery operators, setting out minimum safety and good practice
procedures to ensure that transport authorities can easily identify
the industry for the purposes of road management. This could include
guidelines on speeds of response in certain circumstances or locations
as well as safety on the hardshoulder, including vehicle conspicuity
and lighting. In addition, the Survive Report on hardshoulder
safety (enclosed) called for a British Standard on safe working
practices at the roadside, which would apply beyond on our own
11. It is important that such an accreditation
system is established early in 2001 so that it can be used by
the industry and transport authorities immediately as transport
policy is evolving quickly.
12. RAC Signs is one of the leading national
operators for temporary traffic signs in the UK. We provide signage
for approximately 3,000 events in the UK annually. In 2000 we
provided signage for some of the UK's major events including the
Motorshow, Royal Ascot, and The British Grand Prix, each of which
attracted almost ¼ million people.
13. Our signs have a positive role to play
in congestion management, in that we direct traffic onto the most
appropriate routes and minimise congestion on local roads. Our
signs are erected on average for two weeks, and we would like
the Highways Agency to continue to recognise the role we play
in traffic management on its network.
14. Our role is recognised in legislation
and we endeavour to meet local authority and central government
guidelines to minimise road safety hazards and visual pollution.
We have a good working relationship with the Highways Agency though
we believe that there are a number of improvements that could
be made to minimise the administration for both parties when processing
applications for the approval of temporary directional signs.
15. Firstly, while the Highways Agency periodically
does provide us with information regarding the various contractual
arrangements for network management, we do find that there is
still some confusion. This can generate extra administration and
expenditure not only for RAC, but also for the Highways Agency
and its contractors. Ideally, we would ask that the Highways Agency
provide us with an electronic map of its road network, indicating
the name and contact number of the relevant body, as soon as any
changes are made. While there is a site on the Internet, it is
not comprehensive and is not regularly updated with this information.
16. Secondly, we would welcome consistency
of approach in terms of the process for applying for permission
from the relevant agency to erect temporary signs. This is particularly
relevant where the Highways Agency has retained contractors to
manage different parts of its network. Currently, in some areas,
we might be required simply to contact the Highways Agency to
seek permission for a particular temporary sign (the Highways
Agency would then deal with its contractor direct). In others,
we may be required to seek permission only from the contractor
or even consult both the Highways Agency and the contractor. We
would ask that the Highways Agency simplify this process thus
reducing administration and expenditure for all concerned parties.
17. Finally, we would also welcome consistency
between the Highways Agency and local authorities in terms of
the type, size and nature of the signs that are permitted for
temporary directional signs. We often find that for one event,
the Highways Authority will have different requirements to the
local authority and this can complicate the administration procedures
for our own operations.