AA Breakdown Cover – Getting bigger
By 1914 the AA had over 83,000 members. In addition to the
traditional bicycle patrols the AA introduced motorbike patrols,
allowing it to respond to breakdowns more quickly and in areas
that were previously not accessible. Addition of motorbike
sidecars, the AA were able to equip their patrols with more
tools, allowing them to repair more cars at the roadside.
1920 saw the AA begin the introduction of the roadside phone.
This would allow car drivers to call for help in the event of a
The road traffic act of 1930 abolished the 20mph speed limit
which had been in force in the UK since 1896. The road traffic
act 1934 then introduced a 30mph speed limit for urban areas,
although speedometers were not a legal requirement in vehicles
until 1937. The AA continued it’s fight to help motorists avoid
police speed traps, and assisted those who had been caught in
By 1938 the AA had almost fully replaced the bicycle patrols
with the motorbike side car patrols, with up to 1,500 of them on
patrol at any one time. The AA’s breakdown recovery patrolmen
would start their day in a central location, and then set out on
a pre determined route looking for broken down and stranded
By the end of 1939 the AA had 725,000 members, which equated
to approximately 35% of the cars on the UK roads. After world
war 2 had ended, petrol rationing continued, and as the AA had
done previously, they led the protests against this. Eventually
they proved successful when in 1950 the rationing was lifted. As
soon as the war ended the number of cars on the UK roads
continued to increase, and so did the number of AA members.
1949 saw the introduction of four wheel patrols following the
purchase of a fleet of Land Rover cars. These 4×4 cars were
perfect for the job, as they offered the AA patrolmen the
ability to carry significantly more equipment than the
motorbikes could, they could also attend breakdowns in hard to
reach places (including off-road), in all weathers. The next 20
years saw the AA gradually replace their fleet of patrol
motorbikes with 4 x 4 cars and vans.
The AA also introduced their fleet to a revolutionary
technology which was very new at the time; the two way radio.
This revolutionised the service that the AA could offer. Thanks
to this technology, the AA were able to offer their first night
time patrols throughout London from 1949, a service that quickly
expanded to the rest of the UK.
In the 1970’s commercial radio stations were really taking
off, so in 1973 the AA launched “AA Roadwatch” which
is a traffic update broadcast via radio stations. AA Roadwatch
is now Europe’s biggest broadcaster of traffic updates. In this
same year the AA launched a new car breakdown product known as
‘AA relay’, where they would transport a members broken down
car, and contents to any UK mainland destination, innovation
which competitors soon followed.
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