Bridge strikes, education is the answer

Translink figures show that a bridge in Northern Ireland is struck by a heavy goods vehicle once every two weeks, and moreover, that it is the same five bridges which are struck repeatedly.  

It is important to remember that unlike some complex safety challenges faced by road transport operators, bridge strikes are almost entirely avoidable, yet they cause significant damage and huge safety concerns. The more we can do to educate drivers about the dangers of bridge strikes and how to avoid these, the better.

In GB, Network Rail suggests that lack of driver awareness of the height and width of a particular bridge accounts for around one third of strikes.  However, for hauliers operating in Northern Ireland, these hotspots are well known – there is little excuse for a driver not knowing a low bridge.

FORS members should ensure that their HGV drivers are fully aware of the dangers of potential bridge strikes to avoid these costly incidents, which not only impact the wider transport network and cost taxpayers heavily but can result in organisations losing their operator’s licence.

Over 63,000 individuals have completed the FORS Professional Bridge Smart eLearning module, which was launched in December 2018to address the issue of HGVs striking bridges. The online session teaches transport managers and drivers to understand the dangers of bridge strikes, learning avoidance techniques, and cementing industry best practices to prevent bridge strikes in the future. 

The module is accompanied by a manager toolkit, which includes practical advice which can be adopted into fleet operations to help reduce the risk of bridge strikes, and worst-case scenarioresponse planning. The toolkit also includes driver knowledge materials, internal communication resources and posters. 

Operators should also bear in mind the longer-term consequences of bridge strikes.  Traffic Commissioners are able to initiate proceedings against operators whose vehicles are involved in bridge strikes, with public inquiry results putting O Licences at risk.  

We encourage all FORS members to download and use the free FORS Professional Bridge Smart toolkit and to make sure their HGV drivers have completed the FORS Professional Bridge Smart eLearning module to prevent such incidents.