Cleaning, Collisions & Costs

As Highways England are failing to monitor their contractor’s repair costs, do they show similar disregard for tasks that are paid for from the public purse, such as debris clearance?  Is ‘Debris Only Removed When It Causes Crash?’.

Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA) has called on Highways England to review the arrangements for clearing debris from UK motorways following a rise in “swerve to avoid” and “tyre blowout” related claims. The company believes part of the explanation is the zero carriageway crossings policy adopted by Highways England in 2011, designed to protect the lives of contractor employees.

But CMA says Highways England contractors’ reluctance to incur traffic management costs is exacerbating the danger for road users.  tyreManaging Director of CMA, Philip Swift, said: “We are extremely concerned at the increasing number of cases involving drivers swerving to avoid debris and fear it is only a matter of time before someone gets killed. Highways England contractors are paid a lump sum to provide barrier repairs, gully clearance and litter removal, but the costs associated with closing a carriageway are a disincentive to removing larger items like burst tyres.

“Even if a Highways Agency Traffic Officer (HATO) or contractor does attend, there can be a tendency to kick the problem to the side of the road, and that puts lives at risk from secondary factors. For example, shards from disintegrating debris can cause punctures, which result in collisions. Debris can also impede drainage, leading to standing water, aquaplaning and crashes.

“Safety is the paramount issue here, but there is a financial aspect to it as well. We find ourselves in the crazy situation where Highways England contractors are presenting claims for barrier repairs potentially caused by debris they are responsible for clearing. This irony is often compounded by a debris clearance charge being lumped in with the repair cost and an invoice being presented to either the driver or their insurer. That is frankly astounding given the clearance task has already been paid for by Highways England, yet we see it happening ever more frequently.”

How much more bluntly does it need to be put:

  1. Contractors receive taxpayers money to clear litter and debris.
  2. It used to be the case that contractor staff would cross live motorway lanes to collect debris
  3. Now contractors should put cones out, close a lane (traffic management) crossing carriageways and clearing debris
  4. Closing a lane (TM) costs money, so some contractors are not doing it
  5. Debris remains in situ’ and can lead to an incident; collision or fire


  • The debris left could cause a collision / incident – in which case contractor staff would attend and clear the debris.
    • Debris is only cleared after the event
    • drivers, fleets & insurers are having to pay for this clearance
  • What has become of the ‘public purse’ funds that the contractor was given to clear the roads?
    • why are drivers, fleets and insurers being asked to pay for this aspect of the repair … costs already met from their taxes

Ultimately, we wish to see contractors undertake what they are paid for – clear the roads.  It adds insult to injury (potentially literally) to learn  debris is only cleared after it (possibly) causes the incident and the contractor can be paid (again) to undertake a clear up the costs for which are hidden within the repair bill.

We applaud the protection zero-lane-carriageway-crossing affords contractor employees who undertake a difficult task.  But what of drivers; is the added cost associated with TM really greater than can be achieved from preventing incidents?