Bridge strikes seem to be a hot topic yet again and we still ask the questions ‘How and Why did it happen’?

The Traffic Commissioners recent report states that bridge strikes are now at an unacceptable level and that action will be taken on those not putting steps in place to stop the trend.

So what are the issues surrounding bridge strikes for the driver and the company? The obvious issue is the fact that some bridge strikes lead to fatalities and this alone should be the top of every driver and operators list of reasons why we should take this problem seriously.

Next we have to look at lost time through injuries sustained and damage caused to the bridge, vehicle and the freight being carried. Yes, a vehicle can be replaced and a bridge can be repaired. We can also hire agency staff to cover for our injured driver however, all of these have a cost attached, some of which will be met by the insurers and unfortunately, some costs will not be considered due to negligence on the part of the driver or the operator. With profits within the haulage sector already cut to the bone, can we really afford not to educate everyone involved in the transport chain on the dangers of bridge strikes? So, with this in mind let’s first of all take a look at how we can educate and inform the people at the sharp end and why continued CPD is so important.

Here at TLCT we pride ourselves on keeping up to date with the many and varied industry rules, regulations and laws. This information is passed on by our industry professionals via our Driver CPC sessions, all of which are factually updated and reviewed on a regular basis. So, how can we keep up to date as commercial vehicle drivers? The best place to start is to ensure you choose TLCT for your Driver CPC sessions as all of our sessions will include the most up to date rules, regulations and revisions but, these change on a fairly regular basis and if you don’t keep up to date yourself then you could become unstuck and in trouble.

Some excellent sources of advice and information are: Office of the Traffic Commissioner or › government › organisations › traffic-commissioners The site gives valuable information to drivers and operators alike and this month includes information regarding bridge strikes and how to avoid them.

A fairly new document from the DVSA is this one: Guidance for vocational drivers: Large Goods Vehicles (vehicles over 3,500kg) which can be found at: This publication gives advice and guidance on Driver conduct, the importance of Driver CPC and the laws surrounding Driver CPC, vocational fitness to drive and vehicle and load safety, all of which will be brought into question when an accident or incident occurs, in particularly when someone is killed or seriously injured.

On the theme of Bridge Strikes, Network Rail have carried out extensive research on the problems associated with bridge strikes and the issues caused, you can find the information you need as a driver here:

As an operator of passenger transport here:

According to Network Rail, here are some of the reasons drivers are still hitting bridges:

  • Drivers taking short cuts whilst engaged on “not in service” journeys
  • Staff with insufficient route knowledge returning a vehicle to depot
  • Drivers taking a double deck vehicle on a single deck route
  • Misunderstanding of road signs

The above mostly relate to PCV’s however, similar problems exist for LGV’s as shown in the pie chart below:

Bridge Strikes

  • Drivers not knowing vehicle height
  • Drivers not believing signs
  • Inadequate signing
  • Poor information about low bridges when planning a route
  • Poor route planning
  • Drivers not understanding signs
  • Other

As you can see, 32% of drivers do not know the overall travelling height of the vehicle with 22% of bridge strikes can be attributed to poor route planning. Is this a fault of the driver, the operator or both?

The driver is responsible for the vehicle, load and any ancillary equipment although the operator will be questioned regarding the suitability of any training given to the driver. In the first instance, the driver and operator should know that if the vehicle height is over 9 feet 10 inches (3 metres) then a height indicator must be displayed in the cab and be set to the correct travelling height and to no more than 150 mm above the actual displayed travelling height.

Route planning is also a major factor in bridge strikes. The driver should always be aware of his/her intended route however, sometimes we are taken off route due to diversions and accidents or just getting lost. How can we ensure we don’t hit a bridge in these circumstances? We now have sat nav that has LGV and PCV software that will tell the driver when the route has a low bridge on the route although this all depends on the driver entering the correct information and the software being used it up to date and current.

For me, I think the best aid for any truck driver is the Truckers Atlas, new and updated for 2020, this absolute must for all professional truck drivers gives Information of over 3,600 bridge heights, with the most frequently struck rail bridges highlighted and costs around £15.00. The atlas should be used by both driver and operator when planning routes. Common sense is also a vital ingredient and even more so when diverted off route so, stop at a safe place if possible and review your route, take time to think and plan and give yourself options.

As a driver, you cannot blame someone else for your lack of knowledge, your vocational competence will be questioned in court along with your company and its representatives. For further information on this and many other transport, logistics and driver health and wellbeing issues, have a look through what we offer or give us a call to discuss your needs, we’ll be happy to help.