Imagine a traditional builder’s skip in your mind’s eye, and there’s a good chance you’ll picture a bright yellow 8 cubic yard skip with sloping ends. But have you ever stopped to wonder why nearly all skips are yellow?

For the answer, you need to look back to 1971 and the introduction of that year’s Highways Act, which set out instructions for skips placed on public roads.

While the 1971 Highways Act did not specify the colour yellow for a builder’s skip, it gave highway authorities the power to impose conditions on “the manner in which it is to be coated with paint and other material for the purpose of making it immediately visible to oncoming traffic”.

Because yellow was considered the most visible colour at night – and a lot of skips were already yellow anyway – it became the standard colour of builders’ skips throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.

An ‘end’ to yellow skips?

In the 1980s, the legislation changed. The Builders’ Skips (Markings) Regulations 1984 came into force on January 21st 1985, with new rules on skip colours and markings.

The new regulations applied to the ends of skips, rather than the entire skip including its sides, and skip hire companies had until January 1st 1986 to make sure their fleet complied with the rules.

Rather than requiring the whole skip to be painted yellow, the new rules required high-visibility plates to be fixed on the ends, with a chevron pattern of fluorescent red and reflective yellow alternating sections.

This pattern is familiar to the present day, still appearing on skips and also on the rear corners of commercial vehicles and other potential highway hazards.

So why are skips still yellow?

Good question – 40 years later, you’re still more likely to see a yellow builder’s skip than any other colour, and it’s not just because of tradition.

Check the highways regulations for your local authority and you’re likely to find that (at least) the ends of a skip must still be painted yellow – even with the addition of the reflective strips – for it to be allowed on a public highway.

If anything, the rules are even stricter than in the 1970s, as in some areas skips must be surrounded by traffic cones and lit up at night.

Skip hire companies are also typically required to print or paint their company name and contact telephone number on the side of each of their skips. It’s not just vanity or clever marketing!

Current legislation for skip hire in London

All of that brings us to the present day and the rules that apply specifically to builders’ skips and skip hire in London – the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2013, which has a whole section (Part 3) devoted to builders’ skips.

This legislation states that if a builder’s skip is placed on a highway in Greater London and is not illuminated as required, or is not correctly lit up overnight with the correct markings, the highway authority can take action to light or mark it themselves.

If they incur expenses in doing so, they can take the relevant London skip hire company to court to recover the debt – and illegally placed skips can be fitted with an immobiliser, making them impossible to collect.

For all of these reasons, it’s crucial that you choose a reputable London skip hire company like No1 Junk Street, and know that our bright green and yellow skips are more than just a fashion choice!

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