Legal update: November 202109 November 2021

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OTC acts after bridge strikes


The Office of the Traffic Commissioner has recently issued a circular regarding bridge strikes. It stated that a number of incidents of commercial vehicles striking bridges have been reported across the national press in recent weeks.

The OTC highlighted that there are also serious implications for operators and drivers, as an operator based in the North West of England recently found. At a public inquiry held in August, a traffic commissioner heard how the operator’s vehicle had struck a railway bridge located close to the operating centre in April 2021 (not pictured). A similar incident involving the same vehicle and bridge had occurred in 2019.

The traffic commissioner concluded that the primary cause of the incident was the driver’s failure to carry out his responsibilities in a professional manner.His HGV licence was revoked, and he was disqualified from holding an HGV licence for six months.

However, the traffic commissioner also found that the operator could have done more to prevent the latest incident, especially following the events of 2019. For this reason, the operator’s licence was indefinitely curtailed.

Some of the common causes of bridge strikes are:

  • Drivers taking shortcuts whilst engaged on ‘not in service’ journeys
  • Staff with insufficient route knowledge returning a vehicle to depot
  • Drivers taking a double deck vehicle on a single deck route
  • Drivers relying on SatNavs instead of proper planning
  • Misunderstanding road signs.
  • Changing motorway rules


    The Highway Code has been revised in terms of guidance on smart motorways. A total of 33 existing rules will be amended and two new rules introduced.

    These include:

  • clearer advice on where to stop in an emergency
  • the importance of not driving in a lane closed by a Red X
  • the use of variable speed limits to manage congestion
  • updated guidance on key factors that contribute to safety-related incidents, including tailgating
  • Two new clean air zones


    First, Newcastle City Council Cabinet will soon be discussing implementing a Category C clean air zone (CAZ) covering the city centre and central road bridges from July 2022. The Clean Air Zone requires engine standards of Euro VI for diesels and Euro IV for petrol vehicles.

    Second, Stoke-on-Trent council has reached agreement with the government that might lead to a congestion charge to improve air quality in parts of the Midlands city. Older vans and commercial vehicles would be charged. Although costs have not been confirmed, in June, council leader Abi Brown, estimated a possible daily charge of between £9 and £35.The latest start date for the scheme would be in the second half of 2024.

    Part paid retests


    DVSA has clarified the rules for heavy vehicle part-paid retests, which it says are cheaper and quicker than full retests.

    They are only applicable for certain deficiencies and the retest must take place on the same or next working day.

    On some occasions the next working day has been applied incorrectly. This makes a difference, because the fees for a part paid retest are lower than for a full retest.

    Part paid retests can take place at the same ATF or a different site on:

  • The day the original test takes place
  • The day after the original test took place
  • The Saturday, Sunday or Monday immediately following a failed original test on a Friday.
  • Poor defect reporting punished

    An ‘S’ marked PG9I is a prohibition for a defect that renders the vehicle immediately dangerous and which indicates a significant failure in the operator’s maintenance systems.

    If due to failings in driver defect reporting, will mean an operator will end up before the traffic commissioner in a public inquiry facing the revocation of its O-licence.

    Kevin Rooney, Traffic Commissioner for the West of England, disqualified a transport manager indefinitely on grounds of professional competence (and financial standing) in one reported public inquiry after concluding that he appeared to “care nothing of the condition of his fleet”.

    It was reported that the DVSA gave evidence that the operator had done nothing to investigate a safety critical immediate prohibition issued to a vehicle displaying a red EBS warning light and when questioned had merely shrugged his shoulders.

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