Finding a smooth path to fix the UK’s pothole problem

Potholes affect drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike, not only causing costly damage to vehicles but also posing a real risk to safety.

An escalating problem, it’s an infrastructure issue that hits the logistics industry particularly hard. Each pothole has the potential to accelerate a wear and tear on a fleet and, with predictions suggesting that more than 40,000 miles of UK roads could become unusable within just five years due to a £550 million-plus council shortfall, what can be done to save fleets?

Our CEO, Mike Danby MBE, commented: 

“Our roads are in worse condition than they’ve ever been. And what was once a problem that typically only plagued B and C roads, is increasingly creeping onto our A roads and even our motorways. The threat from potholes is huge and goes far beyond the damage and subsequent financial costs we associate with it. At ASCG, our drivers are increasingly reporting damage on corners and braking points, posing a real safety risk – one that needs to be made a priority with public spending.

“This year, roads have been hit twice as hard as a lack of investment from previous years has been compounded with the particular bad weather spells, such as the Beast from the East, which will have accelerated the deterioration of existing problems and established new damage itself.

“More needs to be done to tackle the problem. Council budgets only go so far and what we’re seeing up and down the country are plasters being placed over bullet wounds. Filling in potholes only creates patchwork roads; roads need ripping up and re-tarmacing but, quite simply, budget doesn’t appear to be there. However, it’s a cycle that can’t go on forever and it certainly feels like we’re edging towards breaking.

“Suspension and steering linkages have all improved ten-fold over the years which, while this has played a role in protecting vehicles, it is not the answer. Investment needs to be in both vehicle innovation and infrastructural repairs. While manufacturers continue to make improvements in how vehicles handle roads, the major infrastructure investment required to address the problem hasn’t been there, nor do I envisage it coming any time soon. As it stands, the cost of compensation doesn’t compare to the cost of infrastructure investment needed and, until this balance shifts, we’re unlikely to see any changes.

“That said, the cost to business is unquantifiable and any data around this is unlikely to paint a true picture of the scale of the problem. Unless substantial and immediate damage occurs, fleet managers will struggle to account for what damage can be attributed to potholes; most of which builds incrementally over time, but damage to fleets will be much greater than the usual wear and tear expected and planned for. This is causing a real issue for haulage and logistics businesses across the country.”

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Mike Danby, Advanced Supply Chain Group.

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