Operation Tramline – The Unmarked Police HGV Project

You may already be aware that UK police forces are using unmarked HGVs to catch drivers breaking the law, the more observant of you may have even seen one on the road. But how much do you know about these unusual vehicles and the work they do? Read on to find out more about this important deterrent that’s helping keep UK roads safe.

The first unmarked Police HGV was rolled out in 2014 as part of a trial project between Highways England and police forces in the south-east. Chiefs wanted to test the theory that drivers breaking the law would be less likely to suspect an HGV of being driven by a police officer.

The groundbreaking concept was a great success, as it traveled all across the UK’s motorway network catching drivers committing a range of offences. The four-year trial ended recently, and the decision was made to increase the number of vehicles. The project was named Operation Tramline and its overall aim is to encourage drivers to stop giving into distractions while driving.

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The results are in…

In the last couple of years alone, Operation Tramline has caught more than 4000 distracted drivers committing a variety of offences including:

  • Using mobile phones
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Speeding
  • Drink or drug driving

These four serious offences are often referred to as ‘The fatal four’, and for good reason. By far the most common of them was using a mobile phone while at the wheel which accounted for around two-thirds of offences picked up during the trial. The maximum penalty for this was increased last year to £200, and six points on your licence.

How Operation Tramline works

Officers in the HGV work as a team with the passenger – known as the ‘spotter’ – monitoring drivers around them as they travel along the road. When the spotter identifies a driver committing an offence they will record footage and notify a marked police car, usually travelling in convoy further behind. Police officers in the marked vehicle will then intercept the offending vehicle and pull it over. Officers say the project has been especially effective because the viewpoint offered by a truck allows them to easily monitor the behaviour of not only car and van drivers, but also drivers of large vehicles. In 2017, lorry driver Tomasz Kroker killed four family members on the A34 after he ran into the back of their stationary car. Video footage obtained from inside the vehicle showed that Mr Kroker had been using his phone at the time of the collision, and it is this kind of recklessness that Operation Tramline is working to eradicate.

The vehicles used in the scheme are plain tractor units, and although the first vehicle used was grey in colour, it is possible that police forces may change the colour periodically to improve their camouflage.

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