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Bridge strikes and HGV’s – reducing the risks


This National Road Safety Week we take a brief look at reducing the risks associated with bridge strike incidents for HGV/PSV operators, logistics companies and fleet and transport managers.

Vehicle bridge strikes can involve highways, canals, and rivers, but the majority of bridge strikes affect railway bridges. Between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021 there were 1,624 bridge strikes reported across the rail network (Source: Network Rail), with a cost to the taxpayer of over £23 million per annum.

Bridge strikes inevitably cause damage to property and infrastructure but can also cause injury and even death.

Even in minor bridge strike incidents, fleet operators can face regulatory action by the Traffic Commissioner that could affect their operator’s licence, transport managers face a loss of good repute or disqualification for the CPC holder, while drivers could face action being taken against their vocational driving entitlements.

Significant incidents can see criminal prosecutions for both operators and drivers.


Vehicle and Trailer

Know your vehicle and trailer heights

  • For most vehicles ‘The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986’ requires the maximum height to be displayed on a notice in the cab. However, loading and unloading or the carriage of certain loads may change the heights. The height displayed in the cab should, therefore, be reviewed and changed on every journey.
  • Drivers should complete vehicle and trailer heights as part of any walk around check and document that they have undertaken those checks.

Route Planning

  • Routes should be planned in advance and selected to eliminate the risk of bridge strikes.
  • Vehicles should ONLY use LGV-specific satellite navigation systems that include information on vehicle height limits under low bridges and the vehicle height should be set within the satnav system.

Driver Training and Competence

Operators should have a company Health and Safety Policy on the Management of Risk of Bridge Strikes and a training programme for drivers and other staff that includes driver certificates of professional competence, and periodic training and safety briefings that should include the prevention of bridge strikes and additional training on:

  • Traffic signs
  • Approaching arched bridges through a ‘goal post’
  • Tailored training for wide vehicle or loads
  • Incident response

Worst-case scenario – what do you do in the event of a bridge strike?

  • Alert Police using 999 – failure to report an incident is an offence. 
  • Request Ambulance attendance for any injured person.
  • Report the bridge strike to the Rail Authority where it is a railway bridge.
  • Do not move the vehicle and keep anyone round the incident site at a safe distance.
  • Drivers should report the bridge strike to their Transport Manager/Office where appropriate.
  • Report the incident to motor/fleet insurers.
  • Conduct an internal investigation, identify the root cause of the incident, and learn lessons.
  • Report the incident to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner and send investigation reports to the Traffic Commissioner within 28 days. 

If you need assistance with your Health and Safety Policy on the Management of Risk of Bridge Strikes, or incident response, our specialist transport and logistics lawyers in our Crime and Regulatory team would be pleased to assist.

For more information, please contact Rebecca Stanton.


Rebecca Stanton

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