Bridge Strikes

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Bridge Strikes

Vehicles colliding with bridges is a highly concerning issue regardless of the type of bridge that is involved in an incident, e.g. low bridges with pedestrian footpaths, arch bridges, and railway bridges managed by Network Rail. Operators are obliged to ensure vehicles are operated without unacceptable risks to road safety. 

Failure to adhere to this could result in an operator finding themselves called up to a Public Inquiry, a transport manager losing good repute, and/or a driver facing a Driver Conduct Hearing.

To speak to a solicitor for specialist legal advice on a matter involving a bridge strike, contact JMW today by calling 0345 872 6666. Alternatively, complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will give you a call back at a convenient time.

How JMW Can Help

If one of your vehicles has been involved in a bridge strike, you and your business are likely to face an investigation by the DVSA. Investigations typically involve an inspection of your operating centre, vehicles and transport records, as well as planning systems and risk assessments in respect of route and low bridges. Investigators will also want to know what policies and training procedures you have in place to prevent bridge strikes.

Our solicitors can provide expert advice and representation during any part of the process. This includes:

  • Guiding you through the enforcement process
  • Representing you or your drivers during any interviews under caution
  • Helping you to put effective policies and procedures in place to prevent future bridge strikes
  • Representing operators at Public Inquiries
  • Representing drivers at Driver Conduct Hearings

What are an Operator’s Responsibilities Regarding Bridge Strikes?

If you are an HGV operator with vehicles pulling loads of variable heights, or are in charge of a fleet of large passenger vehicles like double-decker buses, it is important that your drivers are trained and aware of low bridges located on or near to their routes, and lorry drivers should be aware of how to use equipment such as height sticks and in-cab height indicators. It is also vital that you as a business have a strict policy regarding sat nav use, as well as a planning system that accounts for and considers the presence of low bridges. These are all things that Traffic Commissioners will want to see in place, where they are exploring the cause and response to a bridge strike.

Where you are a PSV operator running buses, it is important that you communicate routes effectively with your driver, particularly where they are a running service they are unfamiliar with, or in replacement vehicles that may have a different height to their usual vehicle, e.g. a double-decker where they are accustomed to a single decker. It is not unheard of for bus drivers to accidentally take an alternative route in a double-decker bus and find themselves colliding with a low bridge, causing both serious harm and damage.

What are the Consequences of a Bridge Strike for an Operator?

Consequences of a bridge strike for the operator can be any of the below:

  • Death or serious injury to the driver, passengers and other road users
  • Fines and repair costs from Network Rail for repairing a rail bridge
  • Costs for train delays as a result of the bridge strike
  • Negative publicity
  • Litigation from other vehicles or passengers involved
  • Prosecution
  • Being called up to a Public Inquiry

The response to a bridge strike is as important as the systems of avoidance, for an operator to show that they appreciate the seriousness of such an incident.

What are the Consequences of a Bridge Strike for Drivers?

For drivers, striking bridges will almost definitely see you called to a Driver Conduct Hearing, although this may be after criminal prosecution for careless or dangerous driving, which is a serious offence. Criminal proceedings may result in a full driving disqualification, and a Driver Conduct Hearing in front of the Traffic Commissioner may result in the revocation of your commercial vehicle driving entitlement.

FAQs About Bridge Strikes

What is the penalty for striking a bridge in the UK?

The following penalties can be imposed on drivers, operators and transport managers for bridge strikes:

  • Operators - regulatory action against their operator’s licence
  • Transport managers - a loss of good repute and disqualification from serving as a transport manager
  • Drivers - action taken against their professional driving entitlements and possible prosecution for careless or dangerous driving

Who do you report a bridge strike to?

Bridge strikes should immediately be reported to Network Rail and/or the police. If a bridge has an identification plate attached to it with a telephone number, you should call that number to be taken to the regional railway control centre. In any event, the strike should be reported to the police by calling 999. 

What should I do if I hit a bridge with my vehicle?

If your vehicle strikes a railway bridge, the incident needs reporting to Network Rail immediately by calling the number on the identification plate fixed to the bridge.

If possible, the following information should be provided when making a report:

  • The date and time of the incident
  • Bridge identification or location
  • Whether the bridge is over the road or railway
  • Any known hazards or if people are at risk of injury
  • Whether the vehicle is wedged underneath the bridge

What happens after a bridge strike has been reported?

Once a bridge strike has been reported to Network Rail and/or the police, train movements may be stopped until the bridge is examined and any necessary actions to maintain safety have been taken. Actions can include:

  • Removing a wedged vehicle from underneath the bridge and stopping train movement until the vehicle is removed
  • If the integrity of the bridge has been compromised, repairing the bridge, closing the road and stopping rail services until further notice
  • If the integrity of the bridge has not been compromised, returning train services to normal 

When train movements have been stopped, they can only restart if the following conditions are met:

  • A Bridge Strike Nominee (BSN) authorises train movements
  • The condition of the bridge is safe to carry trains/vehicles/pedestrians or allow them to pass under
  • The repairs have been completed and the risk has been removed

Following a bridge strike, the Highways or Road Authority will review whether any improvements need to be made in the area, including new road traffic signs and the removal of obstructions in front of existing signs. 

Talk to Us

Speak to the road transport solicitors at JMW today to find out more about how we can help you and your business in relation to bridge strikes. Simply call us on 0345 872 6666, or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will give you a call back at a convenient time.