About our services

Information about Highways England Traffic Officer service and free recovery through roadworks.

Traffic Officers

Highways England Traffic Officer service patrols England’s motorways, helping to keep traffic flowing smoothly.

Traffic Officers’ responsibilities

Traffic Officers help to manage incidents by:

  • coordinating the resources of the emergency services
  • managing traffic to reduce incident related congestion
  • clearing debris from the carriageways
  • re-opening routes as soon as it is safe to do so
  • support the police

By clearing incidents quickly, Traffic Officers reduce the impact of incident related congestion and also reduce the risk of secondary incidents.

Traffic Officers also:

  • keep you informed through electronic message signs and by supplying information for local travel reports
  • help you if you breakdown or are involved in a collision or incident
  • remove damaged and abandoned vehicles
  • provide mobile and temporary road closures

Traffic Officers’ powers

Under the Traffic Management Act 2004, Traffic Officers have the power to:

  • stop and direct traffic
  • close lanes and carriageways
  • manage traffic

You must obey directions from a Traffic Officer. Failure to do so is an offence and carries a fine of up to £1,000 along with possible driving licence endorsement or disqualification.

A broken down or abandoned vehicle can cause delays and accidents, especially on the busy high speed roads that we manage. Under the Removal and Disposal of Vehicles (Traffic Officers) (England) Regulations 2008, a Traffic Officer can legally require a vehicle to be moved if they believe it is blocking traffic or endangering road users. This is called statutory removal.

A Traffic Officer may require your vehicle to be removed if:

  • you are unable to arrange vehicle recovery within a reasonable time
  • they believe the vehicle recovery arrangements you propose are unsuitable or unsafe
  • you leave your vehicle unattended
  • your vehicle breaks down or is damaged in a live lane and it is not possible to clear it to safe area

Traffic Officers must be present at the scene in order to decide to require a vehicle to be removed. They must check if possible whether suitable private recovery arrangements have been made before deciding to remove a vehicle.

If your vehicle breaks down or is damaged be sure to move it to a place of relative safety as soon as it is safe to do so. On a motorway this would usually be the hard shoulder or nearest emergency refuge area. If you need to leave the vehicle unattended, inform a Traffic Officer or Police Officer or inform us using the nearest emergency telephone. Emergency telephones are located at regular intervals along the hard shoulder and at emergency refuges areas.

More information about what to do in the event of a breakdown or accident can be found in the Highway Code.


The motorist present is charged the cost of the recovery. If the vehicle has been abandoned, the owner will be identified and charged the cost of recovering and securely storing their vehicle. The vehicle will not be released until the charges have been paid. Recovery charges are set by the Home Office and are laid out in our National vehicle recovery leaflet (PDF, 35.1KB, 2 pages).

Free recovery

If a vehicle breaks down or is damaged during roadworks it can result in congestion, delays or even accidents. To make sure broken down vehicles are cleared quickly, Highways England arranges a free recovery service through roadworks on our network where one or more of the following applies:

  • the hard shoulder is being used as a running (“live”) lane
  • there is no direct access to the hard shoulder, lay-bys and emergency refuges
  • we have reduced carriageway lane widths
  • we have suspended use of the emergency telephones

This service moves vehicles that are broken down, damaged or abandoned to a nearby place of relative safety, for example the hard shoulder. Our free recovery service only operates within the limit of the works. Vehicles are not towed to your home or to a garage. You will be responsible for any further recovery.

Free recover does not replace break down cover. All motorists should be able to make their own recovery arrangements in the event of a breakdown or accident. We strongly advise that you have breakdown cover and carry details of this with you.