An average of five bridge strike incidents reportedly occurs across the country every day, according to data from Network Rail – costing millions of pounds of damage and major delays to the train network.
HGVs strike bridges at a rate of 1,800 times a year, the rail infrastructure body says, with each incident costing up to £13,500, including bridge repairs and compensation paid to operators, amounting to almost £13 million a year.
Research carried out by Network Rail revealed that 43 per cent of lorry drivers admitted to not checking the height of their vehicle before setting out, while 52 per cent admitted they didn’t take low bridges into account when planning journeys.
Taking into account undelivered goods and productivity loss, the wider cost is estimated to be as much as £23 million per year.
Phil Jones, head of sales and marketing at driving technologies supplier Snooper, said: “For more than a decade, we have been providing driving assistance to truck and other professional drivers, helping them to get from A to B quickly, efficiently and, most importantly, safely.
“To hear that these exceptionally skilled drivers are making a simple mistake that is resulting in so much damage and disruption is what has led us to support the ‘wise up, size up’ campaign, spearheaded by Network Rail.
“By reminding drivers of the correct procedures to follow, including checking the size of the vehicle they’re driving and planning a suitable route, throughout their shift, we hope to keep them ‘bridge aware’ at all points of their journey. There are a wealth of technologies available to help drivers navigate roads safely and efficiently, meaning there’s no reason for these incidents to occur.”
The firm points out that drivers involved in such incidents could potentially face criminal prosecution, which could see them imprisoned or disqualified.
Hojol Uddin, head of motoring from JMW Solicitors, added: “The charges the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) can consider will depend on the circumstances surrounding the collision; however, the majority of such cases seen are dangerous driving.
“This is because their driving has fallen far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.
“In addition, a driver is also to be regarded as driving dangerously if it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state would be dangerous.
“This includes anything attached to, carried on or in it and to the manner in which it is attached or carried.
“In some rare cases, where death or serious injury is caused due to the collision, the appropriate charge would be death by dangerous driving or dangerous driving with serious injury. All these charges result in a disqualification from driving with an extended re-test as well as a potential prison sentence.”
Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail and former bus driver, said: “Size does matter when you’re a professional driver in a heavy vehicle.
“Through partnering with Snooper and other key haulage companies and trade bodies, such as the Road Haulage Association, to spread our message, we aim to bring the issue to the forefront of everyone’s minds and reduce the number of bridge strikes.”