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Motorists face being stranded in breakdowns as recovery industry faces crisis, report warns

Steve Bird
·2-min read
It is feared that motorists will experience more breakdowns after lockdown is lifted because many cars have been standing idle for weeks - Rui Vieira/PA
It is feared that motorists will experience more breakdowns after lockdown is lifted because many cars have been standing idle for weeks - Rui Vieira/PA

Motorists whose cars breakdown face being abandoned because the independent roadside recovery industry is facing collapse due to the coronavirus lockdown, a new study has found. 

Research by an all party parliamentary group has found four out five rescue companies are warning they face bankruptcy in the next three months.

The prospect of so many independent recovery companies closing comes as more restrictions on movement are expected to be lifted with the likelihood of a ‘staycation’ seeing  the number of motorists taking to the roads increasing dramatically. 

It is feared that because so many cars have been standing idle for so long a greater number of them will be susceptible to suffering mechanical problems.

Independent recovery companies, which are usually family owned small businesses, respond to a significant number of breakdowns.

A survey by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Roadside Rescue and Recovery showed 46 per cent of such companies have been operating at below one fifth of their usual capacity, with four in fives businesses operating below 40 per cent capacity.

As a consequence, 78 per cent of businesses said they could survive for fewer than three months at current levels, and 77 per cent of businesses admitting they were not confident about surviving the crisis.

The companies are particularly vulnerable because, unlike motoring organisations such as the AA and RAC which get monthly or annual subscriptions, they are paid per job.

Sir Mike Penning MP, the Conservative MP and chair of the parliamentary group, said: “These survey results make for harrowing reading. The nation depends on a sustainable roadside recovery industry to keep our roads moving. This will be as true after lockdown as it was before. 

“I am worried that if many of these independent  recovery businesses fold we will be looking at a congested road network further down the line. The government should take steps now to extend the business rates holiday to include recovery operators, and look at other forms of tax relief to ensure this essential industry survives intact.”

Richard Goddard, chairman of the Professional Recovery Operators Federation, said the country faces a “log jam” as demand picks up later in the summer when people who cannot travel abroad choose to have holidays in the UK.