Driving any kind of vehicle is a risk-filled operation. However, professional drivers are statistically more likely to encounter emergency situations. Purely because of the amount of time spent on the road. One particular risk for LGV and HGV drivers to be aware of is bridge strikes.
In this blog, we’ll cover what drivers need to know to reduce the risk of Bridge Strikes. Also, what should be done if a bridge strike does occur.
What is a bridge strike?
A bridge strike occurs when a motor vehicle crashes into a bridge at a location where the railway passes over a road, or the road crosses the railway.
The number of bridge strikes has decreased in recent years. However, there was still an average of more than four bridge strikes per day reported across the rail network between 1st April 2020 and 31st March 2021.
Each of these bridge strike incidents has potential to cause death or serious injury to road and rail users. They are also financially costly to the vehicle owner and the railway.
After an incident, the bridge needs to be checked to make sure it’s safe and debris needs to be cleared. This can cause significant delays to both road and rail users. Plus, disruption to the affected community.
Preventing bridge strikes
In a survey of LGV/HGV drivers, several possible reasons were given why a bridge strike may occur. Such as:
- Drivers not knowing vehicle height
- Poor route planning
- Drivers not understanding signs
- Poor information about low bridges when planning a route
- Inadequate signing
- Drivers not believing signs
This highlights how important it is for drivers to understand ways to prevent bridge strikes. Especially as the consequences of bridge strikes are so serious.
Plan the day ahead
Drivers should be aware of the vehicle’s height and width before starting a journey. They should know the height of the cab and check the height indicator in the cab. They must ensure that the height of the vehicle trailer, its load, and equipment tallies with what is on the height indicator.
LGV/HGV drivers should also be aware that the height or width of the vehicle can change. Even a slight fifth wheel adjustment or an unsecure load can cause a discrepancy. Any discrepancies in the measured vehicle height and that shown on the height indicator should be reported to their employer.
Should the height of a vehicle or trailer exceed three metres, there must be a notice in the cab indicating the overall travelling height, or the driver must have access to documentation that outlines an alternative road that avoids low bridges.
Drivers should be confident in the security and safety of the load they are carry. As well as comfortable with the schedule and route. Before setting off, drivers should check that they can avoid any bridges that their vehicle cannot pass through. This should be done every journey, as information can change. Even on regular routes.
During the journey
Keeping a road atlas in the cab can help with checking bridge heights, as well as road widths and weight restrictions.
If drivers use a sat-nav system, it should be a specialist system for LGV/HGV. Sat-nav systems designed for cars will not avoid low bridges.
No matter how knowledgeable and experienced the driver is, shortcuts should be avoided. When there are time pressures or traffic, it can be tempting to take shortcuts. However, these may lead to a low bridge.
If a driver comes to a bridge they can’t pass under, the driver should stop and seek advice from their employer at the safest available opportunity. If communication is difficult, they should consult an LGV/HGV road atlas or sat nav. They should never attempt to pass under a low bridge.
Understanding road signs
Signs may be provided to give drivers advance warning of restrictions when approaching bridges. This is to help drivers take an alternative route and avoid the possibility of a bridge strike. However, advance warning signs are not always provided.
There are two types of traffic sign a driver may come across at low bridges to show the maximum permitted vehicle height. It is essential for safety that they understand both. Red circle signs, show what is prohibited. Red triangle signs indicate a warning. But both are there to tell a driver not to proceed if their vehicle is above the height indicated.
If the worst happens
Drivers must know what to do if a bridge strike does occur. Would you know what to do? Take the online Bridge Strikes quiz to find out.
There is further detailed guidance available on bridge strikes from Network Rail.
However, in brief, the steps an LGV/HGV driver should take following a strike incident involving a railway bridge are:
- Immediately report the bridge strike to the rail authority so that trains are prevented from crossing the bridge
- Advise the police by calling 999 emergency services
- Report the bridge strike to their employer
- Keep the public away and do not attempt to move the vehicle
Take action on bridge strikes
Bridge strikes are still occurring all too frequently. To reduce risk, this topic can be addressed effectively in Driver CPC Periodic Training.
Members of the RTITB Driver CPC Consortium have access to the module ‘Dealing with Common Emergency Situations’, which covers bridge strikes. It also covers topics on Breakdowns, Fire, and ‘What’s the Risk?’.
Not a member? Get a free 30-day demo of our Driver CPC Periodic Training material. Or contact our team to learn more.