Reference: S1002/V8

Last update: 06/04/2010 10:53:51


Carry out a literature review to cover all aspects associated with the clean up of road contamination such as diesel spillage. From this research, propose a test methodology that can be used to assess the performance of the most popular clean up methods. It is envisaged that this would be achieved by carrying out the following:

. a literature review of previous work associated with the clean up of contaminants and diesel spills on public road surfaces. This review should be as broad as possible and should consider for example:
- Clean up products and procedures used in the UK and other countries. (compare with those noted in the Killspills survey).
- The relative performance and cost effectiveness of the identified products;
- Procedures that can be used to measure the effectiveness of the chosen clean up process;
- Effect of the clean up process on the road surface.
- Whether type of road surface influences the chosen method.
- Environmental effects on performance (e.g. rain, temperature, etc.)
- Clean up procedures used for other contaminants on the road surface.

. based on the findings from the literature review of previous work, propose a practical and cost effective test methodology that could be used to evaluate the performance of potential diesel spill clean up methods. Typically, this may include:
- Methodology for measuring the surface friction of the road;
- Ambient conditions: wet/dry/hot/cold;
- Road surface friction before spillage, after spillage, after clean up;
- Measurement of road surface damage caused by the contaminant/clean up method;
- warnings of clean up methods that give poor performance or result in adverse
effects (eg. loose sand may result in a lower road friction than diesel spillage)

Other tasks that will assist this Project;

. Identify existing routes that may be used by the general public to report diesel spills.

. carry out a review of accident statistics and studies to identify the number of injury accidents where oil/Diesel spillage could have been a contributory factor and provide an estimate of the annual cost of these accidents;


Motorcycle traffic in 2008 was 40% greater than the 1994-1998 average baseline with increasing numbers of people turning to motorcycles to commute and for leisure. However, motorcyclists are at a much greater risk of death or serious injury than other road users. In 2008, the relative risk of a motorcycle rider being killed or seriously injured per kilometre travelled was 57 times higher than that of a car driver. Motorcyclists currently account for 19% of all road traffic deaths.

In 2005 the Government published a motorcycling strategy that set out to identify and address the many issues and challenges that motorcycling raises and in particular, the safety of the rider. A number of sub groups of the National Motorcycling Council (NMC) were set up to deal with topics such as road safety, publicity, training, traffic management and technical matters. Sub groups were allocated a list of Strategy Actions and the Technical Engineering and Environmental sub group (TEE) and Transport Management Planning and Transport policy (TMP&T) combined to "Work with interested organisations to develop a clear understanding on the road safety risk of diesel spillage and develop solutions" and "Investigate the reporting options for diesel spills and other highway defects. Test options for tackling diesel spills and dissemination of results."

The action has been led within the sub groups by KillSpills who are a small voluntary group of motorcyclists who campaign for the reduction of diesel being spilled onto the roads.
In the 6 years since they were founded, they have worked effectively to formulate information in order to publicise the dangers of diesel spillage to riders, other road users, and those that potentially cause the spillage such as hauliers and truck drivers. They are passionate about the problem and apart from the traditional publicity methods of using press releases, stickers, handouts, etc., they have worked with Government, delivered 5 reports to the Prime Minister, and organised rallies to raise awareness of the issues. They present an annual award for: Achievement in Reducing Diesel Spills, and recipients have included hauliers, the Highways Agency and the DfT

KillSpills research found that in the period 2000 to 2005 in the UK, there were 3000 accidents involving all vehicle types in which 617 road users were either killed or seriously injured that could have been related to the spillage of oil/diesel fuel onto the road. Also, KillSpills claim that there has been a 69% reduction in oil/diesel spillage related motorcycle accidents in the past 6 years due to improved rider awareness through their various publicity campaigns.

In order to complete the current phase of the Strategy Action, there are two aspects remaining - diesel spillage clean up procedures and the reporting of spillages. There are no common guidelines for spillage clean up and so a survey was launched in 2008 where local authorities and emergency services were asked to report on their clean up policy via a series of questions. The survey found that different products and procedures were being used by authorities in order to clean up spills and so it was decided that there is a requirement to carry out tests to find out which of these are better from a performance and cost standpoint.
However, prior to any testing, we wish to carry out a literature review in the field of diesel spillage clean up. We require the review to be as broad as possible and, for example, should include all types of road surface contamination. From this research, we require the contractor to make proposals for a practical test procedure that could be used to assess the clean up products and procedures that have been identified.
Also, this review will include an update of the statistics relating to the number of motorcycle accidents that may have been attributed to diesel spillage on the road.


TRL Limited
Crowthorne House, Nine Mile Ride, Wokingham, Berkshire, RG40 3GA
+44 (0)1344 773131

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £25,230.00

Actual start date: 16 February 2010

Actual completion date: 31 March 2010


Review of diesel spillage clean-up procedures
Author: B Meitei, M Keigan, W Chislett, I Carswell and J Harper
Publication date: 07/09/2010
ISBN: 978-1-84608-886-5
Source: IHS
More information:

Summary of results

  1. With regard to products and procedures, the following conclusions were made:
    . No national guidelines currently exist in the UK to deal with hazardous material spillages on highways and lack of well-defined hazardous materials response policies and procedures.
    . Different County Councils, Maintenance Area Contractors and other road authorities use a variety of proprietary absorbent products and follow different clean-up procedures that have been developed in house. Only a limited number of comparative studies have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of these absorbent products.
    . There are no robust and clear consistent guidelines for reporting hazardous material spillages on highways which may delay reporting of spillages and valuable time could be lost in mobilizing the incident response units to clean-up the spillages.
    . A response to a diesel spillage or an incident will be dependent upon the severity of the spillage. However, proper guidelines and documented practices are not available defining the roles of the parties involved to improve coordination and preparedness.
    . There is a general lack of verification for the claims made about products while an independent assessment would assist the road authorities in developing rational policies and generally increase confidence in using proprietary products. Any advice should relate to treatment performance and environmental issues rather than name specific products. On-going trials at TRL of a limited number of products should assist with development of this advice.
    . The Environment Agency (EA) currently allows the use of most of the proprietary absorbent granules for application on diesel spillages provided they do not contain any pollutants. The EA prefers inert and biodegradable products which are likely to cause minimum environmental issues. The used absorbents have to be collected, bagged and disposed of appropriately.
    With regard to the motorcycle accident study, the following conclusions were made:
    . The various sources of information used in this study have shown that the presence of road surface contaminants present a legitimate concern for motorcyclists.
    . The estimated total value of prevention of all of the reported personal injury road accidents in Great Britain in 2008 (170,591 accidents) is £12,790m using 2008 prices and values. The corresponding estimated value for 2007 and 2006 was £13,770m and £13,089m respectively. This estimate relates to the total value to the community of the benefits of prevention of road accidents.
    . The total annual value of prevention of the motorcycle accident type where oil and/or diesel was recorded as a special condition at the accident site for the three years was £48.91m; £14.96m in 2006, £18.45m in 2007 and £15.50m in 2008. This report has shown that the estimated value for the prevention of these accidents is about 0.12% of the total for the period 2006 to 2008.