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Connected Driving 4 min read

Vehicles hitting UK bridges is a huge problem — and now, preventable

A van travels under a low bridge in the UK.

Accidentally smashing into overpasses is not only dangerous but also very costly. Thanks to HERE Navigation, one British company hopes to eliminate bridge strikes for good.

If you’re not from the UK, you might not have heard of Hinckley, a town in southwest Leicestershire. Its local website celebrates Hinckley’s 700-year-old market and annual Tin Hat Fun Fair, but in the last few years it is a 15-foot-high railway bridge over the A5 that has grabbed the most headlines as “Britain’s most-bashed”.

Between 2017 and 2022, the bridge’s span was hit by trucks 88 times. Combined, the resulting traffic jams and train delays have cost the economy over £169,000 (US$215,000) — a frustrating statistic in an area with a high density of distribution facilities.

Hinckley’s headache isn’t unique. According to the UK’s Network Rail, there were 1,833 bridge strikes across the country between April 1st, 2021, and March 31st, 2022, leaving British taxpayers with a bill of £23 million (US$29.2 million).

“The risk to life is the biggest concern for me,” said Steve Digva, CEO and Founder of In Phase International. “In inner cities, the areas around low bridges are normally quite congested — cars parked on either side, pedestrians walking through — so if a truck hits a bridge and topples over, it could be a very dangerous situation.”

A semi truck driving through a busy port area.

Bridging the gap

A long-term HERE partner, In Phase has developed a wide range of products embedded with HERE Navigation, including a portable alert system called Snooper Truckmate Bridge Saver. By simply entering their truck’s dimensions, the display will notify the driver of any upcoming bridge height restrictions.

“As far as I am aware, we are the only company in the world that offers a dedicated low bridge warning system,” said Digva.

As an alternative, you can opt to include the bridge-saving software into Snooper Truckmate Navigation, which will optimize the truck’s route to completely avoid any bridges it wouldn’t be able to clear safely.

Research conducted by the UK’s Network Rail shows that 43% of truck drivers admit to not measuring their vehicles before heading out. Even worse — 52% don’t even factor in low overpasses when planning their route. And it’s not just truck drivers that cause the most worry.

“In the UK, there are a lot of bridges that are lower than 5 meters, so there are some vans — and even horse trailers — that exceed that height,” said Digva. 

Truck Route Optimization Slope Transportation Logistics Fleet Management

While the UK Department for Transport’s protocol for the “Prevention of Bridge Strikes over Highways” states that the minimum standard clearance over all parts of major UK highways is 5.03 meters (16.6ft), the same is not true for bridges over smaller roads where the maximum headroom only has to be signed.

Surprisingly, the protocol also reveals that “there is no legislation limiting the height of vehicles that travel on the roads on the UK, or requiring drivers to notify or seek approval to travel in respect of any threshold in vehicle height.”

Snooper Truckmate Bridge Saver is currently only available in the UK; however, In Phase is looking at developing new products using HERE SDK, as well as an expansion into Europe.

Back in Hinckley, the local council has recently approved a scheme to lower the road under the bridge, providing vehicles with much-needed clearance. And as developers have also planned to construct a brand new warehouse and office buildings nearby, the green light for the project couldn’t come at a better time.

Councillor Ozzy O'Shea, Leicestershire County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “It's time to fix this problem given this is one of the busiest routes through the county and crucial to the region's logistics and economy.”

Louis Boroditsky

Louis Boroditsky

Managing Editor, HERE360

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