HGV Safety guide – What to do in the event of a bridge strike.

Did you know:

  • Bridge strikes are one of the most common HGV accidents in the UK
  • Network Rail alone reported in excess of 2000 bridge strikes during 2017.
  • It is estimated that bridge strikes cost UK tax payers £23m annually

What is a Bridge Strike?

A bridge strike is where a vehicle hits a bridge that it is attempting to drive under – typically because the vehicle is too tall to pass under safely.

It s actually quite common that the bridge itself is left undamaged, and many bridges have built in collision barriers designed to minimise impact. For the HGV – or more often the trailer it is pulling – the story can be quite different, with damage costing money and time to repair or replace.

What causes bridge strikes?

Carelessness is obviously a key factor. Drivers, tired, inattentive or otherwise distracted, or just ill informed about their vehicle and route, can find themselves in a situation where a momentary lapse in concentration proves costly.

Planning and management to avoid a bridge strike incident.

No matter whether you are an owner operator, or work as a fleet manager overseeing a number of commercial vehicles, it’s worth thinking about putting some time and thought into how you can prevent a bridge strike incident.

  • Plan your routes carefully – rather than simply relying on a standard sat nav which may not be able to tell you about low bridges, or indeed narrow approaches. LGV / HGV specific Sat Navs are available.
  • Avoid the temptation to take short cuts at the last minute – particularly if you don’t know them.
  • Know the height and width of your cab and trailer. Don’t depend on the details on the headboard. Coupler dimensions can vary. It’s important to know / report to your manager any discrepancy between the actual measured height and the headboard information.
  • Vehicle height should never really exceed 3m
  • Ensure that you obey traffic signs.
  • If an alternative route must be taken, for example because of roadworks or an accident blocking your intended route, then you should get guidance on the new route before embarking on it.

Worse case scenario – what to do in the event of a bridge strike.

As highlighted at the beginning of this article, accidents do happen – and bridge strikes are incredibly common. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having made a strike, you should:

  • Alert Police using 999.
  • Report the bridge strike to the Rail Authority where it is a Railway bridge. The information for this should be on signage on the bridge itself.
  • Do not move your vehicle, and keep any one around away and at a safe distance.
  • Report the bridge strike to your employer where appropriate.
  • Report the accident as soon as appropriate to your insurer / insurance broker.

Further consequences

  • If you approach a low bridge and realise before impact, then the issue becomes the lorry has to reverse. Most of these low bridges tend to be on A roads and you’ll probably need Police involvement to help manoeuvre backwards – and it could be some distance to a point where the lorry can be turned around.
  • If a driver hits a bridge the cost involved will be met by the vehicle operators insurance – the operator will not be happy that the claim will probably affect the cost of future insurance and may dismiss the driver.
  • Police are usually involved due to the issues involved as they were in this incident,  and in most instances the Police will prosecute, which can lead to points on a licence, which can also lead to loss of a job due to either the driver being banned under the points system or the employers insurers not wishing to re-insure due to adverse history.