Network Rail is increasing its efforts to reduce the number of bridge strikes in Britain by launching a campaign focused on engagement with lorry drivers.
We have aimed our new campaign, Lorries Can’t Limbo, directly at HGV drivers and others who drive high-sided vehicles. It encourages drivers to "wise up and size up" their vehicle and plan their route before they head out on their journey.
The campaign follows the shocking admission that 43 per cent of drivers do not check the height of their vehicles before heading out. More than half said they did not take low bridges into account when planning their journeys.
The number of bridge strikes across the rail network rose to 1,801 between 1 April last year and 31 March this year, a five-year high and an increase on 1,665 in April 2016 to March 2017.
Each year there are an average of 2,000 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.
Mark Wheel, senior engineer at Network Rail, said: “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, 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 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.”
The four Es
Lorries Can’t Limbo focuses on four key areas, developed in partnership with organisations in the haulage industry including Eddie Stobart, DHL and Royal Mail:
Education of drivers and employers
Engineering and signage
Enablement technology in HGV cabs
Enforcement of penalties
We have provided our partners with a toolkit to help them educate drivers on the impact of strikes and how to wise up and size up lorries.
“The consequences of a bridge strike are extremely serious”
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.”