Bradford on Avon bridge-ban volunteers deny foreign lorries get free ride
A group of volunteers who man a medieval bridge to report lorry drivers for driving over it have denied claims that British lorry firms are being fined while foreign lorry drivers are escaping punishment.
The Lorry Watch scheme in the Wiltshire market town of Bradford on Avon is the first of its kind in the West and has now claimed another major scalp, with famous lorry firm Eddie Stobart the latest to be fined for crossing the Town Bridge. Now word is getting out in the trucker community, with warnings – and moans – on internet forums. One trucker – known as Toby – warned his fellow drivers: “Be careful with an artic, even if you think being empty on the 18-tonne limit, you will get the £1,000 fine as several firms have found out.
“The spotters are there from 7am to 6pm, after that do what you want, and foreign trucks are exempt from prosecution. All fair and harmony in the EU, then?” he added.
The 14th-century bridge is the only way across the River Avon in the town and for miles around, and lorries adhering to an 18-tonne weight limit face delays in the traffic of Bath, ten miles downstream, or a detour through Melksham, six miles upstream.
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Volunteers sign up to wait on the bridge to log the registration numbers of lorries breaking the weight ban, and the bridge is usually manned from 7am to 6pm most days.
The number plates logged by volunteers are passed on to Wiltshire Council’s enforcers, and they write a warning letter to the lorry firms. If the same firm’s lorry is spotted crossing the bridge a second time, they are taken to court and so far around half a dozen, including several in Somerset, have been given fines of up to £1,000 each.
Earlier in February, Eddie Stobart Ltd pleaded guilty to two offences and was given a total of fines and costs of £1,590. Those behind the Lorry Watch scheme denied foreign firms were “exempt” from paying the fines, although they admitted it is harder to track them down. Wiltshire Council said volunteers had written down many foreign-registered lorries breaking the ban – and sent warning letters – but since none had done so twice, they had not had to test the system.
“Where foreign vehicles are observed breaching the weight restriction, attempts are made to trace and warn the registered keeper of the vehicle,” a spokesman said. “Sometimes we are successful, sometimes not, however our records show that no foreign vehicles have to date been observed repeating the offence.”
Steph Ridout, the co-ordinator of the scheme, said she was pleased word was getting out in the trucking community to avoid Bradford on Avon, and that lorry drivers were warning each other, but said they should be careful not to risk crossing the bridge “after hours”.
“We do random watches at all times in the day,” she said. “We have in the past had people there in the early hours of the morning."