Highways England (HE) has revealed that its fleet of three ‘plainclothes’ trucks that patrol the country’s motorway and major trunk road network have recorded over 3,500 moving traffic offences in their first year of operations.
Funded by HE, the three unmarked truck tractor units are referred to as heavy goods vehicle (HGV) ‘supercabs’ by the agency and have been fitted with wide-angle cameras to capture unsafe driving behavior.
The three supercabs have been used by 29 police forces over the past year in a safety initiative known as Operation Tramline.
The cabs have travelled thousands of miles since they first took to the road 12 months ago and police offers inside the vehicles have recorded over 3,500 offences. All three cabs are now being used for a week of action on the M1 to improve safety on England’s most used motorway.
The trucks 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 a short distance behind. During their first year of operations, the most common offences captured by the supercabs included:
- Not wearing a seatbelt – 1,195;
- Using mobile phone – 1,062;
- Not in proper control of vehicle – 262;
- Speeding – 118.
Over the year, police officers issued 462 penalty charge notices (PCNs) and filed 2,533 traffic offence reports, usually requiring drivers to attend a driver education course. There were also 73 prosecutions for more serious offences.
Footage captured by the supercabs included:
- A truck driver who was seen holding his credit card and cell phone in each hand to make a payment while traveling along the M40 near Leamington Spa;
- A van driver who was spotted with no hands on the wheel as he used one hand to change gear and the other to hold his mobile phone as he travelled along the A38 near Derby, even though he pulled into a service station to stop just a few seconds later;
- The driver of a pick-up truck with both hands on his phone writing a text message as he travelled along the M60 near Eccles in Greater Manchester.
“Hundreds of thousands of drivers use our roads every day and the vast majority are sensible behind the wheel, but some are putting themselves and others at risk,” noted Richard Leonard, HE’s head of road safety. “We introduced the three new HGV supercabs last year to help keep the roads safe and tackle dangerous driving by people who have either got into bad habits or are simply ignoring the law. The cabs have helped to identify over 3,000 unsafe drivers over the past year, and we hope our week of action on the M1 will encourage everyone to think about what more they could do to improve how they drive.”