Kent transport

Kent residents say councils calling for sat navs to be banned in lorries won’t help

Residents of a Kent village say calls to ban satellite navigation systems in lorries will not protect their village from damage from heavy goods vehicles.

It comes as advisers call for only specialist navigation devices to be used by truck drivers.

Goudhurst High Street regularly has HGVs crossing

The Local Government Association (LGA) – which represents councils in England and Wales – is calling on the Government to use its forthcoming Transport Bill to ban standard satellite navigation systems as HGV drivers are only allowed to use specialized devices instead.

Commercial satellite navigation systems designed specifically for trucks include information about bridge heights and narrow roads.

They also allow truck drivers to enter the dimensions of their vehicle to ensure they have been instructed to follow a suitable route.

Cllr David Renard, spokesman for LGA Transport, said: ‘The spate of accidents we continue to see involving lorries blocking streets, damaging local areas and crashing into bridges all too regularly are causing major disruption to local communities.

“There are more truck trips than ever, risking more incidents. Truck mileage has increased nearly 9% over the past year and is back above pre-pandemic levels.

Church Lane in the village of Goudhurst was blocked in May 2019 after a lorry got stuck on bollards
Church Lane in the village of Goudhurst was blocked in May 2019 after a lorry got stuck on bollards

“The councils are already working with freight and transport companies to ensure that trucks use the most appropriate routes and roads. However, there is a minority of drivers who continue to follow satellite navigation systems that take them on routes that are totally unsuitable for the weight and height of their vehicle.

“By requiring anyone driving a heavy goods vehicle to use a specialist satellite navigation device, the government can help reduce the risk of accidents and keep our roads moving.”

A small village in Kent knows the problem all too well.

In May 2019, residents of Goudhurst were tormented by heavy goods vehicles driving through their village.

One of the main roads on the main street was completely blocked off after a truck got stuck on bollards.

Church Road is on a hill and has a sharp bend at its peak – one of the houses on the bend itself has bollards outside to protect it from passing traffic.

The wheels of a truck got stuck as it tried to cross the road around 4.30am.

Antony Harris, chairman of Goudhurst Parish Council, said at the time that the same road had been blocked twice in a week.

Three years later and Andrei Sasu, bar manager at the Star and Eagle Hotel, who has lived in the village since 2016, says nothing has changed.

“It doesn’t matter if they are foreign or English, it’s a huge problem,” he explained. “Trucks pass here every day, every hour – I see about 20 passing here every day.”

The bollards that are in place on Church Road to protect houses from vehicles
The bollards that are in place on Church Road to protect houses from vehicles

“Cameras and fines are the only solution. You can put up signs, but everyone will ignore them.

“Drivers entered our wall on the outside so often when they came around the corner that we gave up fixing it and replaced the bricks with a metal post.

“Truckers don’t even stop, they crash into it, back up and drive off. I get out so many times because I feel bad for inexperienced drivers and diverting traffic.

“I don’t think banning satellite navigation systems for cars will help – how are they going to control them?

“Are they going to stop every truck and check? They will still use their own trucks, it’s easier and much cheaper.”

The Star and Eagel Hotel in Goudhurst is located on the bend in Church Road
The Star and Eagel Hotel in Goudhurst is located on the bend in Church Road
Andrei Sasu, Star and Eagel Hotel Bar Manager
Andrei Sasu, Star and Eagel Hotel Bar Manager

Helen Taylor works at Goudhurst Newsagents, which is also on Church Road.

She said: “Goudhurst needs better signage. The A21 roundabout sign has collapsed or been knocked over by something.

“The next sign is more detailed, but the problem is that the trucks have already taken the road at this point and cannot turn back.

“What we need is a large sign of a crossed out lorry – something that makes it clear that heavy goods vehicles can’t get through.”

She added: “I think banning satellite navigation systems for trucks might work. But obviously we wouldn’t know until it’s in place.

The Star and Eagel Hotel has given up repairing its wall which was knocked down by motorists and replaced it with a metal pole
The Star and Eagel Hotel has given up repairing its wall which was knocked down by motorists and replaced it with a metal pole
Goudhurst church wall was knocked down by lorries driving through
Goudhurst church wall was knocked down by lorries driving through

“Something needs to be done because it’s a daily problem, the amount of whistling and people getting stuck is a regular thing.”

Cllr David Boniface said: “The situation is only getting worse with each passing year.

“There are more large articulated trucks, more of them are 6 axles rather than 5 axles, the government recently allowed them to be several meters longer, and the locals are very unhappy.”

Other small towns and rural roads across the county have also been plagued by sat nav nightmares.

In May 2017 a HGV got stuck on the train tracks at a level crossing in East Farleigh – the driver’s sat nav was said to have directed it through the village.

Cllr David Boniface says truck problem is getting worse every year
Cllr David Boniface says truck problem is getting worse every year

A witness at the scene said: “It was one of the biggest lorries I have ever seen. Small vans like Tesco Home Delivery can go over the bridge but lorries can’t.”

The truck, coming from Romania, eventually turned around and headed towards Tonbridge Road to find an alternative route.

In 2018 a lorry driver got his vehicle stuck on a grassy edge alongside the M2 when he tried to correct a mistake he made when confused by his sat nav.

He was fined £30 and had to pay collection costs.

When a new Amazon depot opened in Kingsnorth, several HGV drivers were stranded on country roads because their sat navs wouldn’t take them directly to the depot.

A lorry managed to get stuck on the level crossing at East Farleigh after tracking its sat nav.  Photo: Robin Brooks
A lorry managed to get stuck on the level crossing at East Farleigh after tracking its sat nav. Photo: Robin Brooks
A lorry stuck on a grassy edge at J1 of the M2 - the driver attempted to change lanes, correcting a mistake he had made when confused by his sat nav.  Photo: Kent Police
A lorry stuck on a grassy edge at J1 of the M2 – the driver attempted to change lanes, correcting a mistake he had made when confused by his sat nav. Photo: Kent Police

The postcode of the distribution center was to blame – as truckers found themselves sent along rural roads designed more for tractors and cars.

Although UK trucking companies have yet to respond to the proposed plan, Rochester logistics firm R Swain & Sons said: “We are giving our drivers the option of being equipped with satellite navigation systems specialized specifically for the heavy-duty industry.

“They obviously highlight low bridges and roads that are not suitable for large vehicles. The options are there, and it is clearly in everyone’s interest to use a satnav suitable for a heavy-duty vehicle. .

“More and more owners are now using this type of equipment.”