New gadget to prevent lorry accidents

ALARMS could be fitted to lorries to give early-warning of when trucks are set to flip-over to stem the tide of crashes at Felixstowe's dock spur roundabout.

By Richard Cornwell

ALARMS could be fitted to lorries to give early-warning of when trucks are set to flip-over to stem the tide of crashes at Felixstowe's dock spur roundabout.

The idea is being promoted by the Highways Agency, which believes a gadget to monitor the movement of cargo could provide drivers with enough time to stop or take action to prevent a vehicle toppling over.

Haulage chiefs are to be asked to consider the idea as part of a package of measures to improve the loading of vehicles.

There have now been 17 accidents in six years of lorries rolling over or losing their loads at the notorious A14 dock spur – with three of the incidents in the past six months.

A year ago, motorist Martin O'Sullivan was crushed to death when a juggernaut turning right to the port flipped over and landed on his BMW.

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But experts say the roundabout is not too blame, and that the crashes are due to poorly-loaded containers, driver error and faulty vehicles.

Jamie Hassall, project manager for the Highways Agency, said alarms linked to the lorry's stability could be one idea to deal with the problem.

"We need to talk to the ports, hauliers and those responsible for loading the containers to see what can be done to improve the loading," said Mr Hassall.

"There are a number of ways in which we can work together and this will be progressed in the coming months.

"One idea is certainly the possibility of some kind of an alarm fitted to all articulated lorries which could sound when a vehicle was in danger of tipping – it could provide an early warning for a driver of when his load was shifting.

"In some circumstances, this would give a driver enough time to take some action, such as slow right down or stop, or to right his vehicle.

"A number of drivers have said that when they feel the lorry start to roll, it all then happens so quick and it is far too late to do anything, so the earlier the warning they get the more it will help."

The Highways Agency will be meeting with the Road Haulage Association and the ports soon to discus the idea and other possible action.

It will also be talking to police, asking them to take stronger action and to prosecute in cases where vehicles have been found faulty or loads have been unstable to "bring the message home".

The agency will this autumn spend another £35,000 on the junction to change some road markings, paint 20mph advisory lorry speed limits on the carriageway and add some new signs.

But safety action campaigners are not convinced and say the work

"seems inadequate to make any impression on the problem" of lorries flipping over.

They want major work done and believe a scheme must be carried out to separate the traffic going to the port and the town, so that if a lorry does roll over it doesn't land on top of a car.

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