Tuesday, July 9, 2019

At Last! Some Common Sense Smart Traffic Signs for Foreign Lorry Drivers

Technology to Aid Overseas Truckers is Long Overdue
Shipping News Feature
UK – In a move which many will consider well overdue, the country has just seen the first multi-lingual advisory highway signs installed. The signs are being displayed in different languages on an approach to the M6 in Cumbria to help lorry drivers from overseas. The portable electronic messages have been placed along the A66 and A69 to near Carlisle to warn of overnight junction closures, and reduce the risk of drivers causing mayhem by taking the wrong routes.

The up to the minute technology uses automatic number plate reader (ANPR) technology to identify the vehicle's origin, so the appropriate language can be flashed up. It is thought to be the first time such signs have been used in the UK and the languages included are those spoken by the most popular nationalities of truck drivers visiting the country namely Spanish, German, French, Polish, Romanian, Dutch, Lithuanian, Slovak and Hungarian.

VPS Security Solutions, better known for vacant property protection but which also has a site security division, has linked its ‘Smart Alert Towers’, fitted with APNR cameras, to mobile variable signs that can flash up written messages about road closures, diversions, accident or other traffic data to drivers in the nine languages. Phil Bunting, a director of VPS, said:

"The number of foreign HGV drivers on UK roads has soared by almost 50% in the past few years. Whilst the use of satellite navigation makes it simple for foreign drivers to navigate throughout the UK, if however there is a road closure or diversion, things can start to get difficult reading worded road signs. In many cases, English isn't going to be foreign drivers' first language. With this in mind VPS has developed a solution to overcome a challenging safety concern."

The language problem is one that can easily be solved in this type of situation, as VPS has shown, yet we still have a paucity of information available to the thousands of foreign nationals, many HGV drivers, who use the road network. For example there have been complaints of late that many thousands of pounds are being lost in toll fees at the Dartford Crossing due to failure of foreign truck drivers to pay up.

The simple truth is that, with the signs only in English, many probably remain unaware of their responsibilities. The argument that the driver cannot be identified as the authorities have no access to vehicle data is, frankly, a nonsense. Ask TfL which seemingly has no trouble identifying any foreign truck that infringes the Congestion or LEZ Zones.

The work done by VPS was prompted after similar problems as detailed by Steve Mason, from Highways England, who said:

"We carried out major improvements along the A66 near Penrith last year and while the communications and diversion routes worked well, we had some feedback from Cumbria Police that foreign lorry drivers were missing some of the messaging."

The work undertaken by VPS in this regard doesn’t stop at ANPR technology as Andy Leigh, the company’s Head of Highways Technology Sales, explained:

"As part of VPS' Smartzone Safety System, integrating technologies enables us to deliver a whole raft of intelligent traffic solutions such as these foreign language variable message signs. In another innovation, last year we helped prevent low-bridge strikes in the same region using electronic goalposts to forewarn over-height vehicles during roadwork diversions."