Potholes are still causing headaches for taxi drivers

Wet hole and cracked on broken street in urban area

Most potholes don’t look like much, but they can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage to vehicles – and taxi drivers are among the record number of motorists left counting the cost.

A year ago, we looked at the misery being caused by potholes and, today, things appear to be worse. While cars are built to be safe and withstand high-speed impacts, it seems incredible that driving into a small hole in a road can cause so much damage.

Thisismoney reports that the number of pothole insurance claims has increased by 40% in a year, with insurer Admiral receiving 1,324 claims for car damage due to potholes in 2023, an increase from 946 in 2022. Admiral’s previous record for potholes was 2018, with 1,057 claims following the Beast from the East Arctic storm at the start of the year. Temperatures plunged to -14C, bringing with it ice and heavy snowfall which prised open cracks in road surfaces.

 

Damage

Hitting a pothole can damage several parts of a vehicle, including tyres, wheels, the steering and suspension. For a taxi driver, and anyone else who earns their living on the roads, it can be a disaster.

If a taxi is significantly damaged by a pothole while the driver is carrying passengers, they will have to be transferred to another cab to complete their journey while the vehicle is recovered. Unless the driver has a replacement vehicle, they will be losing more money while their cab is off the road being repaired. If the damage is repaired under an insurance claim, they may also see their premiums increase, unless the damage is covered by the council’s insurer.

Admiral reported that the average pothole claim payout had risen by almost a third in 2023 when compared to 2022, from £2,378 to £3,070, because modern vehicles are more complicated and more expensive to repair, as well as vehicle repair costs rising generally.

 

Expense

Adam Gavin, head of claims at Admiral, said: “Potholes are more than just an inconvenience, they can also cause costly damage to your vehicle.

“January, February and March are the worst time of year for pothole claims, with more than a third of claims we receive made over this period, as road surfaces become unsettled by freezing temperatures and thaws.”

And the AA’s breakdown service said 2023 is set to be one of its worst-ever years for pothole callouts.

It attended 48,994 callouts in August, 2023, to vehicles stranded due to faults caused by potholes – a 13 per cent rise from the same month of 2022.

 

Technology

As the problem worsens and repair bills become more expensive, cash-strapped councils have taken a variety of measures to make roads safer and reduce the amount of damage caused by potholes.

A number of authorities have turned to AI to map and repair potholed roads. This approach has led to Blackpool Council cutting its payout for damage caused by potholes from £1.6m in 2008/09 to just £719 last year. The BBC reports that this has led to about 95% of claims being successfully defended.

While this is good news for the council, it is bad news for drivers and their insurers who are left footing the repair bill.

 

Innovation

Another innovative approach using technology is in Hertfordshire, where an autonomous robot is getting ready to tackle potholes using AI.

The pilot has been in the testing phase, but experts are preparing for it to be tested on the county’s roads for the first time.

The ARRES (Autonomous Road Repair System) PREVENT machine can identify and categorise potholes and cracks using artificial intelligence, before automatically filling them up to keep out surface water.

If the pilot is a success, Sky News reports that ARRES could save time and money identifying potholes that could worsen due to neglect, and reduce the disruption they cause to motorists.

Whatever approach councils take to potholes, taxi drivers should make sure their taxi insurance covers them for every eventuality, so they are not left counting the cost of expensive repair bills and lost income while their cab is off the road.

Information correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.