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Understanding Bridge Strikes

Instances of HGVs hitting bridges in the UK cost the insurance industry a significant amount of money each year and contribute towards the rising cost of Motor Insurance – as well as road and rail disruption. In this article, Account Executive Ian Limeburner looks at the scale of the problem and what haulage companies can do to minimise their chances of making a claim

According to Network Rail, 5 vehicles collide with railway bridges every day in the UK (on average). The total cost of these incidents is estimated to be around £23m per year.

As if that wasn’t surprising enough, one insurer estimates* it has dealt with 2,961 bridge strike claims since 1997, costing around £20.3m in claims payments. 

It’s little wonder that the UK’s Senior Traffic Commissioner has branded these incidents “a serious industry problem” and has hinted that tougher action may be taken against operators that fail to take the risk seriously.

But why do lorries hit bridges?

Further insurer research* shows that around 43% of drivers reported not measuring the height of their vehicles, or asking for confirmation before going out on the road. It also highlighted that 52% of drivers do not take account of the height of their vehicle.

That’s in addition to height limit signs being obscured by foliage or too close to the bridge for the driver to change course. 

How can you avoid your vehicles hitting bridges?

Thankfully, bridges are inanimate and hitting them is almost always avoidable. That means huge claims can be avoided and you stay in better long-term control of your insurance premium.

There are several steps you can take to reduce or eliminate this problem, some of which are simply about education, costing little or nothing to implement. 

  1. Consider providing dedicated satellite navigation equipment built specifically for the HGV market. This allows the driver to input the vehicle height, and the technology will warn the driver or reroute them away from bridges the vehicle cannot clear.
  2. The Department for Transport provides free guides, aimed at transport managers, professional drivers, and operational staff helping them to avoid low bridges.
  3. Ensure the height of the vehicle is clearly displayed inside the cab and that drivers are reminded as often as possible. It is there for a good reason!
  4. It is wise to consider adding Highway Code-type questions to training or Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) modules, to ensure that bridge signage is understood, particularly in relevance to vehicle height.

Speak to Ian about Haulage Insurance

If you have questions about your premium or would like a quote, contact Ian Limeburner on 01603 218228 today. With more than a decade’s experience working with the haulage industry, he understands the risks you face and can arrange a policy tailored to your needs.  

*Source: You may be required to create a free Vimeo account may to watch the webinar. 

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