You are currently viewing What To Do If Your Lorry Breaks Down On the Motorway

Driving an HGV lorry on a motorway is a demanding task that requires your full attention, and a breakdown is the last thing you want. Such an incident can cause significant stress and disruption, but knowing how to manage it can make a big difference. If you do find yourself in this situation, it’s important to stay calm and handle the circumstances effectively.

In this blog, we will outline some steps to take if your lorry breaks down on the motorway, ensuring your safety and helping you resolve the issue as efficiently as possible.

1. Stay Calm and Handle the Situation

The first thing to do when you experience a breakdown is to stay calm. Panicking will only hinder your ability to manage the situation effectively. You need to find a safe place to stop, carefully manoeuvre your lorry to the left, and move to the safest location possible.

2. Move Your Lorry to a Safe Location

If you’re on a busy motorway, steer your vehicle slowly and safely to the far left, then onto the hard shoulder if possible or to an emergency refuge area (ERA). Stop the vehicle with wheels turned to the left, away from traffic. Avoid stopping in lanes or near the edge of the road.

If your lorry cannot be moved and the breakdown happens in a live lane, stay inside the vehicle with your seatbelt fastened, turn on your hazard warning lights, and call 999 immediately to alert the police.

3. Turn On Your Hazard Lights

Switch on your hazard warning lights immediately. If it’s dark, turn on your sidelights as well, and use fog lights in very poor visibility. Call National Highways on 0300 123 5000, then contact a breakdown provider for help.

4. Follow Safety Procedures

When dealing with a breakdown, it’s crucial to follow proper safety procedures. After moving your vehicle to a safe area, exit the vehicle and ensure that you and any passengers remain behind the safety barrier if one is available. Avoid standing on the motorway or getting too close to the edge of the road. If you have high-visibility clothing, wear it to increase your visibility to other drivers.


  • DO NOT place a warning triangle on the motorway
  • NEVER attempt repairs yourself

5. Contact Your Breakdown Service

If you’re a member of a breakdown service, now is the time to call for assistance. Provide the operator with your location, which can be identified using motorway signs, mile markers, or GPS coordinates if you have them. Be ready to give details about the problem you’re facing with your lorry. If you’re not a member of a breakdown service, you may need to contact a local recovery company to assist with the situation.

6. Contact Emergency Services If Necessary

In some cases, you might need to contact emergency services, especially if there are injuries or if the breakdown has caused a significant hazard on the motorway. Call 999 (or 112 in the EU) and explain the situation. Emergency services will dispatch the appropriate personnel to assist you.

7. Keep a List of Emergency Contacts

It’s a good idea to have a list of emergency contacts saved in your phone or written down in your lorry. This list should include your breakdown service’s contact number, your company’s emergency contact, and local recovery companies. Being prepared with this information can save valuable time in a breakdown situation.

8. Communicate with Your Employer

Inform your employer or the relevant contact person at your company about the breakdown as soon as possible. Provide them with updates on your situation, including the estimated time of arrival for the recovery service. Clear communication helps manage expectations and facilitates any necessary arrangements for the continuation of your journey.

9. Follow Up on Repairs and Maintenance

After the breakdown has been resolved, it’s important to follow up on any necessary repairs or maintenance. Ensure that your lorry is thoroughly inspected and repaired by a qualified mechanic before getting back on the road. Regular maintenance can avoid future breakdowns and keep your lorry in good working condition.

10. Learn from the Experience

Finally, use the experience as a learning opportunity. Reflect on what went well and what could be improved for future breakdowns. Consider whether there are additional items you could keep in your lorry or procedures you could follow to be better prepared next time.

In Conclusion

Experiencing a breakdown on the motorway can be a stressful and challenging situation, but knowing what steps to take can help manage the situation more effectively. By staying calm, ensuring safety, and following the tips above, you can navigate a breakdown with greater confidence and efficiency.

Remember, preparation and knowledge are key to dealing with roadside emergencies, so take the time to ensure you’re ready for any situation that may arise while on the road. Additionally, pay close attention to your lorry maintenance. Performing daily walkaround checks and scheduling regular services can keep your lorry in good working order and help prevent unnecessary lorry breakdowns in the future.

Useful Tips from National Highways UK

Here are some essential tips from National Highways UK to help you manage a breakdown on the motorway.

If You Get Into Trouble on a Motorway – Go Left

If you experience an issue with your vehicle or face any trouble on a motorway, it’s vital to stay composed and try to exit at the next junction or motorway service area. If that’s not feasible, follow these steps:

  1. Activate Left Indicators: Signal your intention to move left.
  2. Move to the Left Lane: Gradually steer your vehicle into the left lane.
  3. Enter an Emergency Area or Hard Shoulder: Find the nearest emergency area or hard shoulder and pull over.
  4. Turn on Hazard Lights: Once stopped, switch on your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
  5. Get Behind a Safety Barrier: If it’s safe to do so, exit your vehicle and move behind a safety barrier. Stay away from your vehicle and moving traffic to avoid the risk of a collision forcing your vehicle towards you and your passengers.
  6. Call for Help: Contact National Highways at 0300 123 5000, followed by your breakdown service provider for assistance.

If You Cannot Go Left or Are in Immediate Danger

In some situations, you may not be able to exit your vehicle safely or move to the left. If you find yourself stopped in a live traffic lane or feel your life is in danger:

  1. Stay in Your Vehicle: Keep your seatbelts fastened and hazard lights on.
  2. Call Emergency Services: Dial 999 immediately or press the SOS button in your car if equipped.

Keep Yourself and Others Safe

  1. Carry Breakdown Recovery Details: Always have the contact information for a breakdown recovery service with you. Save their number and National Highways’ number (0300 123 5000) in your phone.
  2. Pay Attention to Warning Lights: Do not ignore warning lights on your dashboard. Address any issues before continuing your journey.
  3. Evaluate Safety Before Exiting Your Vehicle: In some cases, staying inside your vehicle may be safer than getting out. If you decide it’s safer to leave, ensure you exit from the side furthest from traffic.

Note that this blog is only provided for information purposes. For more detailed guidance, please visit the National Highways UK website.