UK councils say truck drivers must use commercial satnavs to prevent traffic chaos


Following a recent spate of incidents that have caused major traffic congestion problems, the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says that all truck drivers who use satellite navigation systems (satnavs) should be compelled to use commercial models.

The LGA says that while the majority of truck drivers are reputable and responsible, a minority cut corners by using cheaper satnavs designed for cars. Villages and rural communities across the country have suffered as a result of numerous truck-related incidents. A historic bridge in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, had to be closed for months after a driver reportedly took a truck 10 times the structure’s weight limit over it. Trucks have also ripped off their roofs on low bridges, and wedged themselves in historic town centers causing chaos. The LGA highlights seven major incidents over recent months that have caused severe traffic disruption.

Truck satnavs include bridge heights, narrow roads, and roads unsuitable for heavy vehicles. In addition, they allow the driver to enter the truck’s dimensions, such as height, width, weight and load, so they are only guided along suitable roads. However, they are typically more expensive than car units. The LGA also wants councils to be able to fine truck drivers who flout weight restrictions. Trucks of a certain weight or width are banned from many minor roads, but the police do not always have the resources to enforce the restrictions. The UK government has handed powers under the Traffic Management Act (2004) to local authorities in Wales, and London (under different legislation), to take action if truck drivers break the law. However, the LGA says councils across the country must also be given the ability to enforce weight and width restrictions by issuing fines.

“There has been a spate of recent accidents involving lorry drivers driving irresponsibly and causing chaos. The government must start taking this issue more seriously and give councils the legislative tools to help their communities and other motorists, said LGA transport spokesman Martin Tett. “It is common sense that all lorry drivers should use satnavs designed for trucks, but this is only going to become a reality when it is a mandatory requirement. We are talking about a very small extra cost to drivers. Lorry drivers who get wedged in narrow roads or under bridges not only endanger themselves, other road users and pedestrians, but also cause massive disruption. This has a significant impact on local economies, particularly in rural areas.”

Tett continued, “Some rural communities are fed-up with lorries ignoring weight restrictions and using their streets. But they are trying to take action with one hand tied behind their back and urgently need tougher powers. If a community is being plagued by problems, councils should be able to respond to their concerns by issuing fines to act as a deterrent. This is also about protecting the drivers’ safety, as well as the safety of residents and other road users.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).