Firms with a history of bridge impacts could face significant costs

Published: 20 September 2019

Firms with a history of bridge impacts could face significant costs
Firms whose vehicles have collided with bridges are set to be addressed by the traffic commissioner, meaning they could face “exceptionally harsh” penalties – due to the amount of money repairing bridges due to HGV impacts costs local councils every year. This is increasingly problematic for members of the haulage sector.

A spokesman on behalf of Network Rail said regarding HGV impacts that they are “fed up” with the amount of collisions they have to deal with every year – to the point it is impacting progress on development for some of the rail routes and has a negative impact for commuters across the country.

NR carried out some research, finding an average of 5 bridge strikes take place every day with HGVs – which is estimated to cost the taxpayer around £23m each year. Mark Davies, solicitor at Backhouse Jones, spoke on the matter: “If you had a bridge strike this time last year then it would not have gone any further than the obvious inconvenience of hitting the bridge and the damage it causes your vehicle.”

He continued: “But if you’re unfortunate enough to have had one in the last few months or going forward then the reality is that the traffic commissioner is now going to be calling you to a public inquiry. You may have a completely impeccable record, there will be no other issue for the traffic commissioner at that public inquiry but a bridge strike is enough.”

He concluded: “I think it’s fair to say Network Rail have had enough and they have got in touch with the traffic commissioners and made them aware of the scale of the problem.”

Backhouse Jones company director, Jonathon Backhouse spoke regarding the situation – speaking of a case where a bridge was low but hadn’t been marked due to the sign being stolen: “That was a driver that hadn’t had a single significant accident in 30 years of driving, no points on his licence, he had almost an exemplary driving record and yet the traffic commissioner thought that because he had hit this bridge, which was unsigned, the starting point [for disqualification] should be between three and six months.

“We persuaded them to do a lot less than that in the end and reduced it to a fortnight. My personal view is that was exceptionally harsh but that gives you an idea of just how they are approaching this issue.”

The company issued a warning to operators that they would need to take part in a public inquiry if there are any indications that connect them to an incident involving a bridge collision. The firm in question along with their driver would also need to anticipate being monitored much more by officials to ensure a similar incident doesn’t occur again, along with any other penalties that could be introduced.

Elaborating, Backhouse said: “What they are looking to see is actual engagement regularly with the drivers about low bridges and about being aware of the height, my personal view is [to do] anything that keeps jogging the driver’s memory that it’s an issue, so that as soon as a sign appears about a bridge it just triggers in their mind that they have got to be careful.”

Earlier in the year – Network Rail issued a warning to lorry drivers clarifying that they should always be aware of the height of their vehicle following a bridge being struck in the Bordesley Green area of Birmingham which meant the road would be closed for at least the rest of the year.

Senior Traffic Commissioner, Richard Turfitt also stated that commissioners would begin to monitor companies failing to appropriately plan routes for their vehicle journeys more closely in an effort to prevent further incidents and lower the amount of bridge collisions every year.
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