Bridge Strikes

Help your drivers avoid bridge strikes

On average, large goods vehicles and buses hit five bridges across the UK every day of the week. According to Network Rail, the number of strikes reached at 1,787 in 2019. It’s become a focus for Traffic Commissioners; their 2019 report described the number of bridge strikes as unacceptable.

Sorting out the aftermath of a bridge strike costs £13,000 per bridge – adding up to £23m per annum. What’s more, the most costly single strike in 2019 amounted to £1.8m in train delay costs. With Network Rail now able to claim the cost of a bridge strike from hauliers, it’s an expensive – but thankfully avoidable – accident waiting to happen

Causes of bridge strikes

  • Drivers not knowing the height of their vehicle
  • Poor route planning
  • Drivers not understanding signs



  • Inadequate signing
  • Drivers not understanding signing
  • Using a sat nav designed for a car (it won’t avoid low bridges)


How to avoid bridge strikes


  • If the travelling height of a vehicle – HGV and PSV – is over 3 metres, it’s a legal requirement to display the vehicle’s correct maximum height in the cab
  • 43% of drivers admit to not measuring the height of their vehicle before heading out on the road
  • Remember, HGV height can change for a variety of reasons; adjustment of the 5th wheel, whether the trailer is loaded or unloaded. So always check and display correct height on headboard. You can use simple handheld devices or fixed depot installations to do this
  • Make sure an HGV’s correct coupler height is displayed in the cab after loading

Route planning

  • 52% of drivers admit to not taking low bridges into account when route planning
  • Reduce risk by careful route planning using vehicle specific sat nav systems
  • Do your homework! Atlases (remember them?) often have information on low bridge vehicle height limits. Local authorities can help too.
  • If the vehicle’s maximum height exceeds 4.95 metres, your route must be checked by relevant local authorities
  • Tell drivers to stop and seek advice on an alternative route if they are diverted from the planned route and it’s obstructed by a bridge lower than your vehicle

Underneath the arches

  • Take care. The signed height on an arched bridge is only available through the part of the bridge indicated by the ‘goal posts’ painted on the bridge and white lines on the road
  • Don’t forget about your width! If your load is 3 metres or more, the maximum height available will be less than the signed height on the bridge

Look for the signs

  • Some, but not all low bridges, are highlighted on road direction signs, providing advanced warning of the danger ahead
  • Signs are prominently displayed on low bridges where the height is less than 4.95 metres. The signs show the maximum permitted vehicle height
  • Remember – red circle signs prohibit; red triangle signs warn

If you do hit a bridge

  • Don’t hit and run. Leave your vehicle where it is
  • Report it immediately by calling the telephone display number on the bridge’s ID plate
  • Dial 999 and tell the police
  • Keep the public away

Consequences of a bridge strike

Disruption to rail services; danger to passengers

Disruption and delays on adjoining roads

Drivers can be prosecuted for bridge strikes resulting in loss of licence or, in a worst-case scenario, imprisonment

Transport operators are liable for the cost of examining the bridge, repairing the damage as well as recovering the vehicle and its load

Transport operators are also liable for the cost of delayed/cancelled rail services



There’s a bridge on the A142 in Ely, Cambridgeshire, that’s suffered 32 bridge strikes in one year.

You can find more detailed information at

Sources of information

The information in this page came from the following sources: Prevention of bridge strikes and the following guides on the Department for Transport (DfT) website: ‘Prevention of Bridge Strikes’: ‘A good practice guide for professional drivers’, ‘A good practice guide for professional drivers of passenger vehicles’ and ‘A good practice guide for transport managers’.

Picture by kind permission of: Ely Standard