Bridge strike prevention: Put systems in place, TCs urge

The Traffic Commissioners (TCs) have reminded operators to take action aimed at the prevention of bridge strike incidents and that they expect systems to be in place to prevent such occurrences. Their intervention comes a week after two laden double-deckers were involved in separate bridge strikes. 

A message issued on 15 September draws attention to the TCs’ Annual Report for 2019-2020. In it, the Commissioners state that operators “should be in a position to assess the risks attached to their undertakings,” and to take appropriate control measures to mitigate the risk of a bridge strike. That includes route planning in advance. It also involves providing drivers with adequate information about vehicles.

Bridge strike prevention: Must be a priority for operators

TCs treat bridge strikes on a case-by-case basis in the same manner as any other serious incident. “As TCs have repeatedly made clear, regulatory action hangs over those operators that fail to take appropriate action,” they say. There is an understanding of issues with signage and road resurfacing impacting accuracy, the report continues. 

Senior TC Richard Turfitt told operators at a Confederation of Passenger Transport event in 2019 that information on bridge strikes is shared between Network Rail and TCs. Bridge strike reports received by his office “will be followed up,” he added. 

As part of their more recent message, TCs have drawn lessons from one unnamed operator’s experiences and learning after it suffered bridge strikes. After the first such event, it rolled out new training for drivers, Transport Managers and other staff.  

After a second strike, the company commissioned a transport management solutions provider to develop a bespoke route planning system. Now when a job is routed, that software identifies which vehicle is being used and provides a suitable path avoiding low bridges. Drivers are asked to confirm that they know the vehicle’s running height beforehand should any en-route diversions be necessary. 

“This is the sort of system that TCs expect operators to put in place. Don’t wait until you hit a bridge before you do so,” says the Commissioners’ advice note. They also advise that operators should read guidance issued by Network Rail (NR) on bridge strike prevention. NR Chair Sir Peter Hendy has long been critical of the frequency with which such instances occur.

Approach from some companies can be ‘lackadaisical’

In the TCs’ Annual Report for 2018-2019, they criticised an “unacceptable” number of bridge strikes and said that they were “astonished by operators’ lackadaisical approach to the prevention” of them.