Local councils have been protesting that lorry drivers shouldn’t be allowed to use sat-navs specifically designed for cars, as many managers provide drivers with. The Local Government Association (LGA) is planning to pass a legislation introduced to ensure truck drivers in England and Wales are using GPS systems designed for HGVs.
They feel councils should have the authority to enforce drivers to stay away from routes where their vehicle is over the weight or height restriction. A recent case of a lorry crashing into a bridge close to Birmingham, ripping the roof off of the vehicle’s trailer entirely is one of many cases where a sat nav has lead a driver to a route their vehicle cannot get through without causing harm.
There have been many calls to raise awareness that many navigation systems are not designed to account for height and width restrictions with their vehicles, which is why HGV drivers should not be using them as a means to find a route for their destination as they lead them into areas lorries won’t be able to proceed in without damaging their vehicle. This has been raised following an increased amount of lorries getting stuck in narrow or low bridges across the UK.
During September in 2016 a driver caused damage to a bridge in Marlow, Buckinghamshire which lead to the bridge being closed for repairs for half a year. The vehicle was over 10 times the bridge weight limit. Network Rail spoke regarding the issue saying high vehicles need to watch out for “low bridge” warnings on the roads. One of their bridges in Hinckley was hit 11 times over the course of 12 months.
GPS systems developed for lorry drivers feature info on heights, width restrictions and alert the driver of any narrow roads they should avoid. They also let drivers enter their vehicle’s dimensions meaning the GPS can work out the best route depending on their vehicle’s information.
Police forces in Wales and Greater London already have the power to enforce weight and height restrictions on HGVs but councils are urging the government to roll this out across England. Councils have been working with major haulage firms to ensure drivers use the routes suited for their vehicles.
LGA transport spokesman, Martin Tett, called upon the government to "start taking this issue more seriously" considering the increasing amount of accidents caused to due sat-navs. While banning HGVs isn’t the solution, drivers simply need to be more aware of where they are going.
Even though most lorry drivers prove to be reputable, Mr Tett told reports communities were getting “fed up” with the few who decide to ignore any restrictions on the roads.
"It is common sense that all lorry drivers should use sat-navs designed for trucks, but this is only going to become a reality when it is a mandatory requirement. We are talking about a very small extra cost to drivers," he said.
A spokesman of the AA said that councils must ensure that warning signs are clearly visible so less drivers will miss any warning signs, also giving them a heads up as soon as possible to ensure they don’t take any turns they cannot back out of.
He said: "If a particular road has a particular problem then it is up to the local authority to come up with the signage to deal with that.
"And obviously if the lorry or any other road user contravenes that road order and that signage then they are open to a penalty."
While plenty of HGV drivers use car sat-navs, there are clearly some restrictions that the sat-nav isn’t designed to notify the driver of. Transport managers who give their drivers sat-navs must ensure it is designed to work around the size of your vehicle, meaning it can calculate each route depending on the vehicle rather than showing one simple route that some vehicles simply can’t use.
Councils also need to invest in further warning sings, meaning drivers can be notified of any low bridge well in advance and plan a different route rather than trying to plough through the low and thin bridges only to cause harm to their vehicle and themselves. As technology advances more vehicles are developing built-in sat-navs, which would be very handy to HGV drivers at a time like this.