Breakdowns call for caution ...
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Paul Mungo picks his way through the pitfalls.
IF you could choose where you were going to have a breakdown, then the best place to have it would be on the side of a motorway.
You will still, no doubt, be cursing your luck, the stars, and the manufacturer of your lorry for the thing to have broken down in the first place, but at least you will be within walking distance of an SOS roadside telephone and an efficient police rescue system.
The SOS telephones are placed at intervals of one mile along both sides of the carriageway. Between the telephones, just off the hard shoulder, are red and white 100-metre posts with small white arrows to direct you to the nearest telephone They are linked directly to a police telephonist.
In the event of a breakdown the police will arrange for the nearest wrecker to be sent, or transmit the message to any rescue organisation you belong to. In serious instances such as accidents, fires and injuries, the appropriate emergency service will be notified.
'A breakdown off the motorway presents other problems, the first of which is communication. The police recommend flagging down a passing motorist and making for the nearest public telephone. (Conversely, flagging down a motorist on a motorway is specifically prohibited.) Should no other vehicles be passing, of course, you walk.
The police can put you in touch with wrecker services. They cannot recommend a specific company, but they keep a list of bona fide garages and sometimes remove firms from their list if well founded complaints are made against them.
In a breakdown, certain commonsense precautions have to be taken before setting off to seek a,ssistance. In the event of a real emergency — an accident, say, with an injured person — you must help the injured before all else.
A spokesman for the ambulance services recommended getting someone else to find the nearest telephone. It was NOT recommended, he added, to bundle the injured man into a car and drive him to hospital.
Injuries are deceptive things and sometimes, in the case of spinal injuries, for instance, which have no visible physical effects, any movement can only worsen the injured person's condition. The usual advice from the ambulance service is: 1, Call the emergency service by dialling 999.
2, If the person is in extreme danger, move him away from it; otherwise don't move him all.
3. Try to stop the bleeding.
4. Keep the patient warm.
The ambulance service alsc recommend that everyone carry a first-aid kit, containing dressings and bandages and some basic medicines. Commercially available first-aii kits, they add, are fairly good.
More importantly, it is strongly recommended that lorry drivers undergo some first-aid training. Because of the amount of time commercie drivers spend on the road, the are far more likely to be at the scene of an accident and therefore more likely to need some basic first-aid skills, "First-aid training," a spokesman for the ambulance services said, "'ought to be high on their list of priorities.
Equally important, according to the Fire Brigade, would be some knowledge of 'simple, first-aid fire-fighting.' This means, in practice, the ability to use the BCF hand fire extinguisher each lorry should carry.
The sole purpose of this extinguisher is to fight small electrical fires in the engine. It is not much use against a large fire, although it was suggested that if nothing else is available, a couple of squirts with the BCF extinguisher won't do any harm. It probably won't put the fire out so the best advice is to "call the fire brigade." Beyond electrical fires, the wst vulnerable items are the /res. When tyres begin to -noulder the fire brigade ?commend pulling over and mothering them with a Irpaulin Fires can't burn ■ ithout oxygen and displacing le oxygen will put out the re.
A relatively new product has een introduced specifically for is purpose. It is an asbestos lanket designed to smother res and can be used on tyres. yen the fire brigades haven't ot them yet but one day, a pokesman said, they may ecome common equipment on II lorries.
The most hazardous and iorrying vehicle to the fire iclgade is the tankerload of hemicals or petrol. Few of hese vehicles actually burst mo flame, in fact that's the arest of all emergencies; but
voluntary use of the Hazchem code strictly compulsory for road tanker vehicles carrying single loads. In time the legislation may extend to other. cargoes, in an attempt to make the Fire Brigade's iob a little easier.
For the lorry driver, the Hazchem code is of little use in the event of a spillage on a B road out in the middle of nowhere. The recommendation
vhat does occur is spillage, or mkage, or, in the case of Irums carried on trailers, the :ontainers falling off
Once notified of such a )roblem, the Fire Brigade will ake -major precautions'' until he substance is identified.
Identification comes through he voluntary use of the -lazchem code, which shows he UN number of the
:hernical, what protective clothing to wear (if any), and vhat type of extinguisher to
Fire Brigades are also 3onnected to a -chemical nciclent section," which has )n file the recommendations rom manufacturers on how to xit out fires caused by various ;ubstarices.
Some lorries do not use the iazchem code, and continue o use symbols such as a little lame, and give a 24-hour elephone number.
However, legislation has ?een introduced to make the from the Health and Safety Executive, in this case, is: 1, Keep well clear of the vehicle and tell others to do likewise.
2„ Do NOT attempt any emergency action on site. .
3, Telephone the police and Fire Brigade by calling 999.
Again, the only way to get through to the emergency number is by flagging down a passing motorist, and asking him to telephone from the nearest call box. This is, a spokesman admitted, not the most satisfactory method, but it is the only possibility.
It is the only possibility almost anywhere off a motorway. Until a national SOS telephone service is created that takes in all roads, drivers in trouble will be dependent on stopping other vehicles.
Either that, or arrange all your emergencies to happen on the motorway.