‘Lorries can’t limbo’ campaign aims to reduce £23m annual bridge repair and compensation bill

Network Rail launch new campaign to educate lorry drivers about the dangers of low bridges

Lorries Can’t Limbo, a new campaign aimed at professional HGV drivers and others who drive high-sided vehicles, has been launched today by Network Rail. The campaign encourages drivers to “wise up and size up” their vehicle and plan their route before they head out on their journey.

Last year the number of bridge strikes across the rail network went up, making it the worst year for bridge strikes for five years. Each year there are about 2000¹ railway bridge strikes, with each costing more than £10,000 for repairs and compensation to train operators for delays caused. Compensation costs Network Rail up to £13m a year, but the true annual cost is estimated to be up to £23m, once the value of undelivered goods, lost productivity from train delays and road congestion are taken into account.

Research carried out by Network Rail, revealed 43% of lorry drivers admitted to not checking the height of their vehicle before heading out, with 52% admitting to not taking low bridges into account when planning their journeys².

The campaign focused on “the four E’s”: education of drivers and employers, engineering and signage, enablement technology in HGV cabs, and the enforcement of penalties, has been developed together with partners³ across the haulage industry. These partners are helping the rail company to educate drivers on how to wise up and size up their lorry by using a toolkit provided by Network Rail, which offers advice on educating drivers around the impact of strikes.

Mark Wheel, senior engineer at Network Rail explains “Day to day, HGV drivers and decision-makers have to address different demands or distractions. We know that bridge strikes are a pertinent issue for a majority of drivers and decision-makers. However, there are many other challenges which often appear more immediate. Bridge strikes are not always ‘front and centre’ and drivers often need to be challenged to consider them, especially outside the confines of their regular depots or destinations.

“We have worked across the industry to develop a campaign together with our partners, using their knowledge and expertise about their audience. Rather than alienate drivers the campaign aims to be collaborative. We want to work with drivers and support them to help them be as prepared when they are out on the road and we wanted to develop something that the industry could continue to use and will be of benefit to them. We hope this collaborative approach will help to drive down the number of strikes we see across the rail network.”

Faced with the prospect of losing his livelihood and summoned to court on a charge of dangerous driving, Dougie, 38 from West Calder, wished he had realised the importance of checking the height of his vehicle before setting off on the road.

“I thought I had done everything right, but I was complacent and I know I should have checked the vehicle height myself. The thing is, it’s not just a slap on the wrist for a bridge strike: the authorities will seek to take your license off you – the consequences of a bridge strike are extremely serious. That means you can’t work and you will lose your livelihood. Dangerous driving carries a minimum penalty of a 12 month driving ban and an extended retest of your car license. Lawyer bills can run into thousands of pounds. It can happen really easily, but is also easily preventable. The frustrating thing is, I know this stuff! My life is based around the transport industry. I don’t just drive trucks, I write about them for magazines and work with a driver training company too. 

“If I could give one piece of advice I would just say make sure you check your height, keep an up-to-date HGV road atlas with bridge heights in the cab, and always stay aware of your surroundings! Once you’re out on the road you are responsible.

To learn more about the ‘wise up, size up’ campaign visit: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/safety-in-the-community/safety-campaigns/wiseupsizeup

To learn more and about bridge strikes and how you can report a bridge strike please visit: www.networkrail.co.uk/wiseupsizeup

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Notes to editors:

  1. Average number of strikes per day from total figures collated across the year
  2. Rail Safety Standards Board, reducing the number and impact of vehicle strikes on railway underline bridges – August 2012
  3. We are working with the following partners to distribute the campaign to drivers; RHA, FTA, Eddie Stobart, Tesco, DHL, Asda, Royal Mail, DHL Parcel (formerly UK Mail), DPD Group, Wincanton, Maritime Transport