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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Plant owners take the initiative on bridge strikes

The Scottish Plant Owners Association has commissioned guidance for members on bridge strike avoidance.

A bridge strike in Glencarse in March 2023 resulted in significant damage to one of the steel primary deck elements and the concrete deck slab above. The steel load bearing element was also badly deformed.

s Association (SPOA) hosted an industry summit earlier this month on the issue of HGVs, loaded with plant and equipment, hitting bridges.

Half of all recorded bridge and structure strikes in Scotland this year have involved plant movement on low loaders.

The impetus for the meeting was a bridge strike incident on the A90 at Glencarse, between Dundee and Perth, earlier in the year. Construction plant was ripped from the back of a lorry and spilled across the carriageway. The incident resulted in no injuries but traffic restrictions remain in place until the necessary structural repairs to the overhead bridge are completed.

Network Rail, Transport Scotland and Police Scotland joined the SPOA and member companies AB2K, Blackwood Plant Hire, GAP Group and WH Malcolm, alongside QBE Insurance Group and loss adjuster Sedgwick, for an open discussion on mitigating the risk of bridge strikes involving HGVs delivering plant and equipment.

The need for industry guidance became clear.

Iain Ferguson, a Transport Scotland bridge manager, said: “Transport Scotland has been working alongside our partners to raise awareness of the consequence of bridges strikes and to minimise their occurrence for a number of years. Recent events such as the bridge strike at St Madoes, which involved an excavator being transported on a low loader, have confirmed that further work is needed to protect the travelling public. This is why we are grateful that the SPOA is creating specific guidance for the transporters of construction plant and we are pleased to offer our full support to this initiative.”

The summit heard that Network Rail records five bridge strikes per day, while 43% of lorry drivers admit to not measuring their vehicle before heading out onto the roads and 52% admit to not taking low railway bridges into account.

The lack of a specific best-practice guide tailored to preventing bridge strikes in the transportation of plant and equipment is exacerbating the risk, SPOA believes.

The meeting concluded with a decision to set out best practices for avoiding bridge strikes in the transportation of plant and equipment. The initiative is led by executive committee member and former president of the SPOA, Mark Anderson.

Mark Anderson said: “The impact of a bridge strike by an HGV is absolutely devastating and, in some instances, fatal. Comprehensive guidance and proactive measures to avoid bridge strikes are long overdue. I feel strongly that the SPOA has a responsibility to its members, and indeed to the transport bodies in Scotland, to highlight this issue and take the lead in advancing this initiative. I would urge members and all businesses that transport plant and equipment with HGVs to continually check procedural compliance and encourage drivers to understand the importance of load heights.”

Work will now start to produce a draft guide which will then be shared and further developed by the organisations attending the summit and by other relevant stakeholders as appropriate, he said.

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