What to do if your vehicle breaks down

Knowing what to do if your passenger-carrying vehicle breaks down is important to help keep you and other road users safe, and to help get your vehicle recovered as soon as possible.

If you’re driving when your vehicle breaks down, brake as gently as possible and pull over to the left side of the road as far as you can but do not park on the pavement. If the problem affects your control of the vehicle,

  • try to keep in a straight line by holding the steering wheel firmly
  • avoid braking severely
  • steer gently to the side of the road as you slow down.

Follow your organisation’s procedures for breakdown recovery and for arranging onward transport for your passengers.

Tyre blowouts

Tyre failures and blowouts can make steering difficult, especially if it’s a front tyre. Stop as soon as you can do so safely to avoid further damage to the vehicle and to avoid leaving debris on the road, which would be dangerous to other road users.

If a front tyre fails

  • keep a firm hold on the steering wheel
  • be aware of anything on your nearside
  • signal to move to the left
  • try to steer a steady course to the nearside (or the hard shoulder on the motorway)
  • reduce speed gradually and avoid any harsh braking
  • try to bring the vehicle to rest under control and as far to the left as possible
  • avoid sharp braking and excessive steering movements.

If a rear tyre deflates, it’s unlikely to affect your control of the vehicle so severely. You may not even notice a tyre has failed on a twin-wheeled or multi-axle vehicle. However, one failed tyre can cause another to fail, so watch out for changes to the handling of the vehicle and investigate what’s caused it.

Breakdowns on motorways

Use the hard shoulder on a motorway or dual carriageway if your vehicle breaks down and you cannot make it to the next exit or service area. Stop your vehicle as far to the left as you can, away from the traffic.

While you’re waiting for help,

  • turn on your hazard lights
  • turn on your sidelights if visibility is poor or at night
  • move your passengers to the front of the bus before you contact the emergency services
  • if you and your passengers have to leave the bus, keep everyone together in a safe area, eg on a bank on the left of the motorway
  • do not leave your passengers unless it’s absolutely necessary.

It’s best to use a roadside emergency telephone to call for help: the number on the phone box will make it easier for the services to understand where you are and get to you quickly.

If you cannot use an emergency telephone, you can use a mobile phone to call for help. You’ll need to give precise details about where you are: use the numbers given on the nearest marker post on the hard shoulder to help the services identify your location.

Warning other road users

Use your hazard warning lights to warn other road users that your vehicle is blocking the road or is in a dangerous position. You can also use a warning triangle if you have one. Put the triangle on the road, well back from the vehicle.

  • On a straight level road, put the triangle 45 metres (147 feet) from your vehicle.
  • On a winding or hilly road, put it where drivers will see it before they have to deal with a bend or hump in the road.
  • On a very narrow road, put it on the nearside verge or footpath.
  • Never use a warning triangle on a motorway.

Always use your hazard warning lights as well as a warning triangle.

Protecting yourself

Wearing high-visibility clothing when your vehicle has broken down will help to make sure other road users can see you while you’re moving outside your vehicle. Your vehicle operator may have its own instructions on what protective clothing you should wear: make sure you know these instructions and have the appropriate equipment with you in the vehicle.

Firefighting equipment

Passenger-carrying vehicles must carry a fire extinguisher and you must be trained to use it. However, you should never put yourself in danger if there’s a fire on your vehicle. Call the fire service as quickly as possible.

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