An introduction to Battenburg markings

No road user can have failed to notice the changes in markings on emergency and goods vehicles over the past decade.

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The distinctive livery, known as Battenburg markings because of the similarity of the design to a cross-section of a cake of the same name, is used on vehicles operated by the emergency services.

Initially, the markings were designed to be used by police forces, and in particular, motorway patrol vehicles, and the Battenburg design was settled on during the 1990s. Since then it has been introduced on other emergency service vehicles as well as other organisations.

Chevron markings

The aim was to ensure the visibility of police cars which were stationary at an incident on the motorways and other major roads.

In 2009 the Department of Transport issued an explanatory memorandum permitting the use of the Battenburg pattern on vehicles used by police, ambulance services, and fire and rescue vehicles among others.

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This memorandum also referenced chevron markings on goods vehicles with a gross vehicle weight greater than 7,500 kgs and trailers exceeding 3,500 kgs and Chevrons kits have since appeared on the market.

Another group of vehicles, such as those used by motorway repair contractors, are also required to have rear chevron markings. Again, the aim is to improve the visibility of these vehicles and reduce accidents. The increased use of Chevrons kits is also aimed at creating a safer working environment for contractors.

Despite the safety intentions, critics have suggested that rear markings do not always suggest to other drivers that the marked vehicle is stationary, and it has been suggested that placing the vehicle at an angle could help other road users.

Retro-reflective colour allocation

The Battenburg livery is used in either a double row of alternately coloured rectangles, or in the case of some cars, a single row design. One of the colours appears fluorescent during daylight increasing visibility particularly at the start or end of the day when natural light can be less.

There has been some criticism of the spreading of the markings across the emergency services with some critics suggesting the public are confused about the role vehicles are carrying out. Consequently, each emergency service has been allocated its own Battenburg retro-reflective colour in addition to fluorescent yellow, with the police keeping blue, the fire service using red and ambulances green.

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