Call for more powers to stop 'lorry havoc' caused by sat-nav use

Published at 9:32am 31st August 2019. (Updated at 11:04am 31st August 2019) Councils want more powers to tackle rogue drivers causing “lorry mayhem” in towns and villages by crashing into bridges after often being taken there by a sat nav. The Local Government Association (LGA) also highlighted a number of incidents where HGV vehicles have blocked streets and got stuck in hamlets after driving down routes not suitable for their size or weight.

The organisation, which represents local authorities in England and Wales, conducted a survey and found that more than half of councils said this was one of the most important traffic issues in their communities. It said Stuntney Bridge in Ely, Cambridgeshire – known as Britain’s “most bashed bridge” – has been struck more than 120 times by lorries and other large vehicles, often due to drivers using sat-navs. The last reported hit was in June, and comes despite the bridge displaying large fluorescent yellow warning signs.

Albert Bridge underneath Middlesbrough railway station was hit four times in the space of a few weeks earlier this year, the latest smash taking place in June – again, the use of the gadgets was believed to be the cause. A historic cottage in Upper Hopton, West Yorkshire, was hit by a lorry in May when the driver took a rural route after following his Global Positioning System (GPS). It is believed to be the eleventh time the home has been struck, with the most recent incident involving a lorry crashing next to signs warning HGV drivers of the risk of collision.

Network Rail says most of the vehicles that hit railway bridges are HGVs and buses, at a cost of around GBP13,000 per strike – or around GBP23m a year to the taxpayer. The LGA wants all councils to be able to issue fines to lorry drivers who ignore road restrictions, but currently only those in London and Wales, along with the police, have the powers to do that. It says if authorities were able to punish motorists who flout the rules, including driving the wrong way down a one-way street or making a banned turn, it would help them act on community concerns and improve road safety, tackle congestion and reduce pollution.

At the moment, those trying to tackle the problem are limited to measures such as organising lorry watch schemes and communicating with freight and haulage companies. The LGA said lorry drivers should also be required to use dedicated HGV sat navs, which would include bridge heights, narrow roads, and roads unsuitable for trucks. They also allow the driver to input their vehicle’s dimensions, so they are only guided along roads which would suit the size and length of their lorry.

Councillor Martin Tett, the LGA’s transport spokesman, said councils “are on the side of the motorists” – but want to do more to “enhance safety” and improve roads and tackle congestion.

He added: “The spate of accidents we have seen involving lorries blocking streets, damaging local areas and crashing into bridges on an all too regular basis shows that action needs to be taken by government in the upcoming Spending Round.

“With powers to enforce moving traffic violations also given to councils outside of London and Wales, they could act to prevent disruption by the minority of rogue lorry drivers that incorrectly use weight restricted roads through our towns and villages and cause havoc and mayhem on our local roads.”

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