Did your latest commute take you along a route which had temporary speed limits, or see you pass a set of roadworks? Both of these may have caused you some frustration. However, spare a thought to how much they are also affecting businesses which need their workers on the road to get them from one of their jobs to the next. Every time that one of these workers are caught in a traffic jam, the amount that they can complete during a working day will be reduced.

Inrix reports that in 2016, more than 1.35 million traffic jams took place throughout the UK. These were estimated to have cost the nation’s economy a staggering £9 billion. November 2016 marked the worst month for the number of traffic jams, with over 169,000 recorded across the country – 50% worse than the average number. But how does this effect businesses who rely on the British roads? Van contract hire providers Northgate Vehicle Hire attempts to answer this question.

It’s important to point out that there will be times when traffic jams will be unavoidable, especially as they will naturally occur if an accident takes place on a road. And of course, as experts from Nokes & Nokes explain, you can seek compensation for the losses due to the road accident, if you’re involved in one. What about traffic which can be avoided though? A significant amount of traffic jams are caused as a result of roadworks and temporary speed limits, which is why the Local Government Association (LGA) have been calling for action by the government to limit the amount of roadworks that are carried out across the country, to reduce the risk of gridlock. Whilst it is also causing unnecessary carbon emissions and fuel, it also wastes a lot of drivers’ time – even more valuable time for those who are working between different locations.

During a year when analysing peak periods of the day, it has been worked out that the average driver will be stuck in traffic jams for a total of 32 hours. This figure doesn’t necessarily account for drivers who drive for a living and are on the roads the majority of the day or night. For businesses which charge their customers an hourly rate, that is a loss of at least 32 hours of work – if you charge £15 an hour, that would be around £480 annually per employee. If you run a business of 15 employees, that is a minimum annual loss of £7,200 as a result of wasted time stuck in traffic.

Utility companies digging will account for 2.5 million road openings per year. Three quarters of small businesses say the roadworks have a negative impact on their business as a result, whether it is wasting valuable time in traffic, reducing sales or loss of earnings. It is no wonder roadworks cause such chaos on the roads when utility works supposedly reduces road life by at least a third, and when temporary speed limits are also set in place, the overall flow of traffic on the road becomes slower. If government figures are to be believed, the state of UK roads and traffic jams are only to get worse – traffic levels are expected to increase by around 55% by 2040.

If you have a business based in or near to Belfast, you may be particularly feeling the frustration that comes from being caught up in roadworks and traffic jams. In 2015, average congestion on the roads was at 40%, meaning businesses lost around 24 working days per vehicle per year. Overall, Belfast businesses experience around £12,673,050 cost as a result of road congestion. The remainder of the UK’s 10 most congested cities and towns rank as followed, according to CityAM.com:

Rank City/Town Average Congestion Working days lost per vehicle per year Cost to business
1 Belfast 40% 24 £12,673,050
2 London 38% 19 £237,196,080
3 Manchester 37% 21 £157,729,390
4 Edinburgh 37% 20 £13,338,360
5 Brighton 34% 16 £9,334,440
6 Hull 33% 19 £13,646,560
7 Bournemouth 32% 17 £7,959,600
8 Newcastle 31% 16 £7,519,410
9 Bristol 31% 17 £43,733,580
10 Sheffield 30% 16 £20,397,480


Beverley Wise, TomTom Telematics’ director in the UK and Ireland, commented: “Making the most of billable time is key to profitability for any business, so organisations that rely heavily on a mobile workforce must look for ways to maximise the time employees spend actually doing jobs by minimising time spent on the road.”

Roadworks and traffic jams across the UK do not seem to be going anywhere soon though. This is since it has been forecasted that traffic levels will continue to rise throughout the nation in the years to come.