Road obstructions and spillages

We try to keep our roads clear of dangerous obstructions and spillages whenever they occur or are reported.

Our responsibility

The A1, A1(M), A66, A66(M), A64, A168 (Dishforth to Thirsk) and A19 (Thirsk to Crathorne) are the responsibility of Highways England.

We are responsible for all other A, B and C class roads and most unclassified roads. We are not responsible for clearing spillages on private roads or private land - that is the landowner's duty.

We will make the road safe and clear where obstructions and spillages could cause an immediate hazard. This can be very costly. Wherever possible, we try to recover costs from the person who has caused the problem. If you see someone cause an obstruction or spillage on the road, report it to us as soon as possible providing as much information as possible.

Frequently asked questions

    Dead animals

    Regardless of its size, a dead animal on a motorway or trunk road should be reported to Highways England.

    On any other public road, as long as it's smaller than a badger and not causing a hazard, contact your district or borough council for dead animal removal. If it's bigger than a badger and causing a hazard, you should contact us.

    Obstructions or spillages causing an immediate danger

    If the issue is causing an immediate danger to the safety of road users, it is classed as an emergency. You should contact us by telephone to report an emergency rather than using our online form. Our opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am - 5.30pm. Dial 999 outside office hours for our emergency service.

    Obstructions or spillages not causing an immediate danger

    You can tell us about a highway obstruction or spillage by registering or logging in to the 'my account' section of the website. 'My account' also allows you to view details of services you have previously applied, booked and paid for. You can also see updates on their progress.

    Log in and report a highway issue

    If you prefer, you can tell us about an obstruction or spillage anonymously, but please be aware that you will miss out on the benefits of having an account. For example, you will not receive progress updates.

    You can provide feedback about your experience of reporting an obstruction or spillage here.

    An obstruction is anything that could be a danger to road users, or hold up traffic, including:

    • Weather-related obstructions, for example fallen trees in strong winds, flooded areas and snow drifts;
    • Dead animals on the carriageway;
    • Overhanging trees and vegetation;
    • Mud on the road;
    • Debris on the road;
    • Skips, scaffolding or hoardings, building materials or street cafes which are only permitted under licence;
    • Advertising boards;
    • Walls, gates, fences and hedges place across the highway;
    • Goods displayed outside shops beyond any private forecourt;
    • Abandoned vehicles (district council responsibility); and
    • Illegal parking on footways and pavements.

    If someone obstructs the free passage of cars along a highway, they are guilty of an offence and we have the legal power to enforce removal. A magistrates' court can impose a maximum fine of £1,000 for anyone convicted of wilfully obstructing the highway.

    We will always investigate reports of the obstruction and the people responsible. We will remove items that are a problem and recover costs from the offender, and require the person responsible for overhanging vegetation - including on footways - to trim it back.

    Spillages affect road surface conditions and can lead to accidents. Below, we outline the types of spillages and how they are likely to be dealt with.

    Type of spillage

    Likely action to resolve

    Oil, diesel, petrol or brake fluid

    As much information as possible is needed to enable the incident to be dealt with effectively. For example, an HGV that has been leaking diesel over several miles requires a different response than a very localised incident.

    Diesel spillages are generally dealt with by sanding the area and placing signs at the roadside.

    Petrol spillages do not usually create the same problem, as it will evaporate readily into the atmosphere.

    Sand, gravel and other building materials

    Materials such as concrete need to be removed as soon as possible before they set.

    Sand or gravel will reduce the road surface resistance to skidding. The road will need to be swept.

    Chemical spillage

    Before any work is carried out, the materials have to be assessed and the risks and hazards identified.

    Hazardous substances e.g. asbestos

    There is legislation controlling the transportation, storage and use of hazardous substances. There are different organisations, including the Health and Safety ExecutiveOpens new window, that enforce this legislation, depending on the business involved and/or where the substances are located.

    Dropped loads like steel, glass and containers

    Dropped loads can damage vehicles and pedestrians. The action taken to will be dependent upon the type of load. In severe cases, the road may need to be closed until the spillage is safely removed.

    Sutton Bank on the A170 - HGV driver information

    The A170 is a single carriageway carrying traffic between Thirsk and Scarborough. At Sutton Bank, travelling eastbound towards Scarborough, the A170 climbs 160 metres from the Vale of York to the top of the North York Moors in under one mile.

    The bank has three sections of steep 1:4 (25%) inclines along its length. Just over half way up is a left hand hairpin bend. Near the top, there is a final short steep section before the main road bends sharply right.

    On average, two goods vehicles per day experience up to four hour delays ascending Sutton Bank.

    On average, over 120 goods vehicles per year fail to make the ascent and require police assistance to proceed.

    Particular issues are that:

    • wet conditions exacerbate the problem;
    • drivers unfamiliar with Sutton Bank encounter more difficulties;
    • the deceptively steep gradient leads to incorrect or inappropriate gear choice by drivers;
    • the load position and weight strongly influences traction for goods vehicles; and
    • HGVs with low power to weight ratios are more at risk.

    Avoid Sutton Bank if:

    • it is wet, icy or snowbound (conditions are made worse during the Autumn by leaf fall). You can view our weather station camera pictures of road conditions on Sutton Bank here;
    • you are not familiar with Sutton Bank;
    • your vehicle has a low power to weight ratio;
    • you are driving a fully laden articulated goods vehicle;
    • there is little weight over the drive axle;
    • local signs indicate it is blocked; or
    • you are an inexperienced driver.

    At the bottom, engage a suitably low gear that provides flexibility to increase or decrease speed without further gear changes and remain in that gear until you are certain you have reached the top by the National Park Centre. Remember to dump or lift any axles.

    You are also less likely to suffer a problem if you put in place extra load security measures before you begin the ascent.

    If travelling to Scarborough, you can avoid Sutton Bank by using these alternative routes:

    From the North (via Middlesbrough and Whitby)

    A1(M) to junction 60 then A689, A19, A174, A172, A1043, A171.

    From the South (via York and Malton)

    A1(M) to junction 44 then A64.

    From Thirsk

    A19 (North) and A171 via Whitby or A19 (South) to York and A64 via Malton.

    Map of alternative routes


    • stop the vehicle
    • call for assistance
    • use the emergency lay-by if safe to do so
    • ensure your vehicle is visible and use hazard warning lights
    • ensure you are visible and use high visibility clothing

    Do not

    • reverse unsupervised
    • endanger other road users

    Telephone numbers

    • Emergency: 999
    • North Yorkshire Police non-emergency number: 101

    If your vehicle needs to be recovered, North Yorkshire Police can arrange this on your behalf.

    You can download and print this  HGV driver information on Sutton Bank leaflet (pdf / 588 KB) to take on your journey.