Prevent Bridge Strikes
The instances of bridge strikes have become a major cause of concern for the transport and logistics marketplace. In 2020/21 alone there were 1624 incidences on the Network Rail infrastructure. There are many more incidences of commercial drivers using inappropriate routes in addition to not complying with gross vehicle weight limits which significantly results in damage to roads, and traffic congestion and puts the safety of other road users at risk.
Operator licence holders and transport managers at times hold HGV & LGV drivers wholly responsible for these bridge strike instances. These collisions' are the responsibility of all parties including the transport operator albeit the driver is in control of the vehicle. In addition to the potentially catastrophic road safety issues, there are serious financial implications to bridge strike incidences for all parties not only to repair the damage but the investigations that follow the event.
Following a bridge strike in St. Helens, the traffic commissioner held a public inquiry and concluded that the primary cause of the incident was the driver’s failure to carry out his responsibilities in a professional manner. The traffic commissioner, therefore, decided to revoke the driver's vocational licence entitlement and was disqualified from working with the licence entitlement for a period of six months.
However, the traffic commissioner also found that the operator license holder could have done much more to prevent the incident and therefore the transport operator found their licence permanently curtailed.
One of the reasons for these incidences occur is down to poor route planning by the licensed operator and the reliance on inappropriate satnav systems, which lack commercial functionality to warn the drivers of all the critical points on routes. Whilst satellite navigation technology can be employed effectively and efficiently, the devices used must be fit for a commercial role. Good service provisions for commercial used systems will regularly be updated on the road network, including bridge heights and restrictions.
Having suitable satellite navigation equipment is not a substitute for effective route planning, but it may assist the driver to avoid some of these incidences, especially when routes change during a journey.
The traffic commissioners expect operators and drivers to treat this issue seriously and take full responsibility for all tasks and trips. Any failure to do so may lead to a licensed operator or lorry driver having to appear before a traffic commissioner.
Minimise the risk of poor road choices
- Make sure your satnav is a commercial vehicle navigation system, not one designed for passenger cars or light vans.
- Planning a route on a device that thinks you are driving a car holds too many risks and may contribute to potential bridge strikes.
- Make sure your software device is up to date with the latest maps and data.
- Roads and maps are constantly changing, check for updates weekly.
- It is the driver and the licensed operator's responsibility to plan journeys correctly.
- As a transport and logistics operator, you must ensure that your drivers are fully trained on the satellite navigation system provided and importantly the correct checks and procedures are in place to ensure they use them properly.
- Drivers must know how to set alarms if they run close to any obstacle.
- Have a satnav policy and procedure within your operation.
- Issue rules to drivers for use of personal satnavs and to ensure they are absolutely fit for purpose.
- Never assume drivers know the restrictions on a road - you must check before driving the vehicle first.
- Use Google Street Views to get a sight of unfamiliar routes or junctions, including delivery or pick-up points.
- Operators should establish whether there are any localised issues that may influence the driving route.
- Inform drivers of all information that may influence the route and include the customer information and notes of instruction to all drivers.
- Drivers must know the height, width, and weight of the vehicle issued to be driven.
- Provide drivers height conversion charts and check they understand them.
- When a vehicle is ‘not in service’, the driving route must still be planned.
- Drivers taking unsuitable shortcuts back to the depot or traveling on unknown routes for maintenance repairs is a risk.
- Prevent bridge stikes at all costs, plan a safe route before your journey starts every time.
Source - Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain