National Highways’ traffic officers are being issued with new equipment to make moving broken-down vehicles safer and faster. Every traffic officer’s vehicle is now equipped with plastic ‘skates’ and battery boosters to help stricken vehicles move more quickly, with the aim of reducing congestion and improving safety.

The organisation, which is in charge of the country’s motorways and major A-roads, says it has invested £200,000 in new equipment and training for traffic officers in a bid to speed up the time it takes to move “non-rolling” broken down vehicles. It’s hoped this kit will be particularly effective for moving stranded vehicles from live lanes – an issue that has been prominent in the news of late.

All 262 vehicles in National Highways’ charge have now been equipped with plastic ‘skates’, or ‘Slippery Jims’, which work by being hammered under each tyre. This allows the vehicle to be towed to a place of safety more easily, using one of National Highways’ 4x4 patrol vehicles.

Woman with phone with broken down car on road

It’s hoped the skates will be particularly useful for moving electric vehicles (EVs), which are often difficult to tow because they have no neutral gear, and towing can damage the powertrain. Where traffic officers had to wait for a recovery vehicle to avoid damaging the vehicle further, the skates should mean electric vehicles can be moved immediately.

At the same time, traffic officers’ vehicles have also been fitted with new battery boosters, which come in handy in case of battery failure on petrol- or diesel-powered vehicles. The booster will help jump start the battery of any petrol engine up to eight litres in displacement, and any diesel engine that displaces up to six litres.

Highways England Land Rover Discovery

“No-one plans to break down, but if the unexpected happens the new equipment we have fitted to all our vehicles will further reduce the time it takes to move a stranded vehicle out of a live lane to a safer area, reducing the risk to both our Traffic Officers and other road users,” said Mel Clarke, the customer service director at National Highways.

“The new apparatus allows our Traffic Officers to be much more agile when dealing with broken down vehicles. Beforehand we’d have to wait for a recovery vehicle to get to the scene but this new approach speeds up clearance times, further improves motorway and major A road safety and allows carriageways to return to normal running quicker.”

Meanwhile Dave Harford, a National Highways traffic officer, said the equipment would help move vehicles more effectively, improving traffic flow and safety.

“Safety is one of National Highways top priorities, and when we’re dealing with a non-rolling vehicle in a live lane of a motorway or major A road our primary concern is finding a way to move the vehicle to an area of safety as quick as possible whilst minimising risk,” he said. “This new equipment is a great addition to our vehicles as we’re able to safely move vehicles much more effectively, which gets the recovery process moving much faster helping to minimise any delays to other road users.”