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Do satnavs cause bridge strikes or poor planning?

Traffic commissioners say that the number of bridge strikes remains alarmingly high with 1,624 incidents in 2020/21.

13 December 2021

Do satnavs cause bridge strikes or poor planning?

One of the reasons for these vehicles hitting bridges, say the traffic commissioners, is poor route planning and the reliance on inappropriate satnav systems.

While satnav technology can be employed effectively and efficiently, they say, the devices used must be fit for a commercial role. Good satnav devices will regularly be updated with up-to-date information on the road network, including height restrictions.

The commissioners stress that having suitable satnav equipment is not a substitute for effective route planning.

The warning from traffic commissioners comes after Network Rail relaunched its ‘Wise Up, Size Up’ campaign, reminding lorry drivers and haulage operators to take better care by knowing the height of their vehicles and choosing suitable routes before they head out on journeys.

The most-struck railway bridge in the country, was the Coddenham Road bridge on the B1078.

Following one bridge strike in St. Helens, an HGV driver’s licence was revoked because the traffic commissioner concluded that the primary cause of the incident was the driver’s failure to carry out his responsibilities in a professional manner.

Check list for hauliers

To minimise the risk of poor road choices, traffic commissioners recommend the following:

  • Operators should always make sure their satnav is a commercial vehicle satnav, not one designed for a car. Make sure the device is up to date. Roads and maps are constantly changing. It is the operator’s responsibility to plan correctly.
  • Make sure that if satnavs are provided to drivers, they are trained to use them and, importantly, the correct checks and procedures are in place to ensure they do. They must know how to set the alarm if they run close to an obstacle.
  • Have a satnav policy within your operation. Set rules for use of personal satnavs and ensure they are fit for purpose.
  • Don’t assume you know the restrictions on a road, check first.
  • Double check on an up-to-date map. You could use Google Street Views to get a sight of an unfamiliar route or junction, including delivery or pick up points. Operators should establish whether there are any localised issues that impact on routes and include this in customer information notes for drivers.
  • Know your vehicle height, width, and weight, and ensure your drivers do – provide height conversion charts.
  • Even when your vehicle is ‘not in service’ your route must still be planned. Taking unsuitable shortcuts back to the depot or when going for maintenance is a risk.

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