• August 9, 2021

  • Sue Wharmby

  • Driver Articles


Changes to the Highway Code

The New Hierarchy of Road Users

You may have read about forthcoming changes to the Highway Code. But do you know what they will be, and when they will take effect?

As a fleet manager, or simply as a road user, you have a responsibility to keep up to date with the Highway Code. When you passed your driving test and applied for your first full licence, you agreed to do just that. But how many of us take the time to refresh our memory about the rules and regulations? Probably very few. Yet the Highway Code changes regularly – in fact, amendments were last made in March of this year, and more updates are coming in the autumn.

We recommend that fleet managers regularly share information about changes to the Highway Code with their drivers, whether they’re using company vehicles or their own cars. It will help to keep your drivers (and other road users) safe and it also encourages a professional, best practice approach.


Here’s an overview of the changes and what they mean for company car drivers:

It’s anticipated that 33 existing rules will be changed in September and two completely new rules will come into force.

In a nutshell, a hierarchy of responsibility is being introduced, based on the level of harm each road user can cause to others. Road users will have to give way to one another based on their position in the hierarchy: so, a lorry will be required to give way to a car; a car to a cyclist; and so on.

The intention is to make cycling and walking safer and more appealing to a wider range of road users, helping people to maintain healthy habits adopted during the pandemic and supporting the government’s ambition to ‘build back greener’.

But it will also address issues surrounding smart motorways and the well-documented dangers they pose, and there will be guidance aimed at helping drivers to understand how to use them properly.

Motorway users tired of other drivers cruising at lower speeds in the right-hand lane will be pleased to know that the Highway Code will specify that drivers should return to the middle, and then the left-hand lane of the motorway as soon as it is safe to do so.

There’s also an update coming to the rules around the use of the hard shoulder. You will only be able to stop in the hard shoulder in an emergency or if directed to do so by the police or traffic officers. So, the fact that you might need to mop up the coffee you’ve slopped into your lap or that you have an urgent work call to answer won’t cut it. 


Top tips from the team at Wessex Fleet:

  1. Remember that some of the instructions in the Highway Code non-negotiable; others are advisory - but no less important. Where you read the words ‘must’ or ‘must not’, those are legal requirements. No dispute! So, claiming you didn’t know is not a defence. If you are involved in an incident and you have been driving in a way that breaches the Highway Code, it can be used in evidence against you in court (even if it’s an advisory rather than a legal point).
  2. Help your teams to stay up to date by providing them with updates and flagging any changes. Keep an eye on our website for new information or share the link to the Highway Code (or its social media channels) and encourage your drivers to review it regularly.

  3. Bear in mind that knowing the rules of the Highway Code makes us all better drivers and reduces the number of accidents and deaths on our roads. Consider additional driver training for any members of your team that might benefit. Specialist courses are available – so, if any of your company drivers have particular areas of concern (say, driving on motorways), you can arrange specialist training to help them feel more comfortable. 

  4. Think you’ve pretty much got the Highway Code nailed? Take one of their sample tests and put your knowledge through its paces. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder of the rules of the road - as anyone who has recently helped a young person prepare for their driving test will know!

  5. Remind your company drivers that the Highway Code says they should have planned their route properly, setting off with enough fuel or charge (especially if driving on a motorway) for the journey and allowing time for breaks.