The UK is now in the peak season for bridge strikes, with drivers and operators being warned of how checking for low bridges could avoid hours of delays, significant repair bills and potential criminal action.
October each year sees the highest number of bridge strikes of any month, according to figures from Network Rail, doubling from an average five strikes a day and leading to an overall estimated bill of more than £23m. Earlier this year it was revealed that a bridge in Birmingham, which carries the railway over Landor Street in Bordesley Green, was forced to close for five months in the latest of 32 strike incidents over a decade. Data also shows that one bridge on the A142 in Ely, Cambridgeshire, suffered 32 strikes in just one year and another on the A5 in Hinckley, Leicestershire, was subjected to 22 incidents in the same period.
As well as the delays caused by such incidents, operators can also be impacted by financial penalties – Network Rail can recoup up to 100% of the cost of repairs from the employer organisation – while drivers who cause bridge strike incidents are also at risk of criminal prosecution, which could lead to disqualification from driving and, in the most serious of cases if individuals have been injured or a fatality caused, could see a prison sentence applied.
Now, the AA has joined the call for greater education for drivers and fleet managers to avoid the delays and damage that such actions can cause, building on work by Network Rail, the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
Tips include fitting dedicated commercial satellite-navigation devices which are designed specifically for larger vehicles.
Stuart Thomas, director fleet & SME Services at the AA, commented: “We all know how busy professional and agency drivers can be, with packed schedules, congestion and poor weather just several of many challenges they have to deal with every day. However, a few additional minutes at the start of every journey to check the size of your vehicle and make sure you know of any potential obstacles on your route can pay real dividends.”
Thomas continued: “With Network Rail research suggesting 43% of lorry drivers don’t measure their vehicle before setting off, and 52% don’t take low bridges into account when route planning, we’re getting behind the call for education and training to become much more widespread. Even using something as simple as the AA Trucker’s Atlas – which includes widths and weights as well as bridge heights – to check for low bridges can avoid hours of delays, hundreds of thousands of pounds in repair bills and potential criminal action.”