Highways England pays for three new ‘plainclothes’ trucks to patrol motorway network


Highways England (HE) is providing three new ‘plainclothes’ trucks for deployment on the country’s highways as part of a unique initiative to tackle dangerous driving on England’s motorway and major trunk road network.

HE is funding three new unmarked truck tractor units, after a single one used by police forces across the country was used to help catch over 4,000 dangerous drivers in its first two years.

Referred to as HGV ‘supercabs’ by HE, the three new truck cabs will patrol motorways and main trunk roads, and have been fitted with wide-angle cameras to capture unsafe driving behavior.

They also have a derestricted speed limiter that means they can travel at speeds up to the national speed limit (70mph/112km/h), and flashing lights have been installed for use by police forces in an emergency. The cabs allow police officers to film evidence of unsafe driving behavior by traveling alongside other vehicles. Drivers are then pulled over by police cars following behind.

In total, 28 police forces have taken part in the ‘undercover’ truck safety initiative since it began in April 2015, pulling over 4,176 drivers in relation to 5,039 offences in its first two years. Nearly two thirds of the drivers who were stopped were illegally using a cell phone while driving, despite the latest statistics showing that mobile phone use is a factor in an average of two deaths on the roads every month.

Offences have included: a driver, who was pulled over by Devon and Cornwall Police, that was found to have sent 10 SMS text message replies within one hour; a driver in Surrey who was seen trying to put toothpaste on a toothbrush; and a driver in the East Midlands who was spotted steering with his knees while he ate his lunch and used his phone.

“We have been funding a single cab for the past couple of years and we’ve been impressed with the impact it’s had on improving safety,” explained Richard Leonard, HE’s head of road safety.

“Over 4,000 dangerous drivers have been pulled over, with police action ranging from verbal warnings to prosecutions. We’ve found that the vast majority of drivers are sensible behind the wheel, but a few have got into bad habits, or are simply ignoring the law and putting themselves and others at risk. We’ve therefore decided to fund two extra unmarked HGV cabs to continue to target dangerous driving on England’s motorways and major A roads, improving safety for everyone.”

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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).