Two-thirds of company car and van drivers have suffered damage to their vehicle as a result of hitting a pothole in the past year, according to a Fleet News poll.
It follows separate research that shows almost 29,000 drivers made claims against councils for damage caused to their vehicles by potholes in the last financial year, resulting in £2 million being paid out.
The 200 local highway authorities in England, Scotland and Wales that responded to a freedom of information request (out of a total of 207) dealt with 28,971 compensation claims between them in 2014/15. This is equivalent to one claim roughly every 18 minutes. In the previous financial year, drivers made 48,945 claims; one every 11 minutes.
Councils refused the bulk of claims, agreeing to pay out in just 25% of cases (down from 26% in 2013/14).
However, this average masks huge differences between councils. While Bury paid out in 88% of cases and Plymouth 86%, 21 councils paid out nothing at all.
In England, 13 councils – Southampton, North Tyneside, Bracknell Forest, Newham, North East Lincolnshire, Hackney, Sutton, York, Peterborough, Kensington and Chelsea, Reading, City of London, Bexley and Isles of Scilly – reported no successful claims out of the 313 collectively made against them.
In Wales, Blaneau Gwent was the only local authority that reported no successful claims, while in Scotland six councils – Moray, Clackmannanshire, the Western Isles, Highland, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands – paid out nothing.
However, the RAC Foundation, which conducted the research, said the average settlement for a successful claim increased to £294 in 2014/15, from £286 a year earlier.
The figures do not take into account either the size of the authority or the traffic volumes on their roads. Hence there is no assessment of the rate of claims per mile of road under management or rate of claims per vehicle mile.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “One reading of these figures could be that local roads are in better condition than they were. But that does not square with councils’ own assessment that the road maintenance backlog is actually growing, not falling.”
The Government announced last year that £6 billion would be spent tackling potholes and improving local roads between 2015 and 2021 (fleetnews.co.uk, December 22, 2014).
The investment amounts to £976m a year, which should pay to fix about 18m potholes across the country.
However, to bring local roads in England alone back to a state that is fit for purpose would cost £8.6bn, according to the Government’s own estimate.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance estimates the cost of returning English and Welsh local roads to a ‘reasonable condition’ to be even higher, at £12.16bn (England £11.5bn).
The poor state of Britain’s local roads is the number one concern among drivers, according to the RAC Report on Motoring 2015.
One in 10 motorists (10%) said the condition of local roads was their top concern, while a further 20% listed the issue as one of their top four concerns.
Half (50%) of the 1,555 motorists surveyed said they believed the condition of roads in their area had deteriorated in the past 12 months.
Of that 50%, the vast majority (99%) attributed this to potholes and general damage to the road surface.
RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “The Government has taken bold steps to ensure that the strategic road network in England is fit for purpose and is capable of supporting economic growth by implementing a roads investment strategy and ring-fencing vehicle excise duty to fund the maintenance and development of the network from 2020.
“Equally bold and imaginative action is now required to address the deficiencies in local roads as funding from central Government is insufficient even to address the current backlog of repairs and local authorities are currently unable to fill the gap from council tax revenues.”