400 vehicles stopped as officers in unmarked HGVs patrol M6

Op Tramline supercab

More than 400 vehicles were stopped and 387 offences recorded in a week of action by police and National Highways which saw officers patrolling the M6 in unmarked HGV cabs.


Police officers caught 98 drivers using their mobile phone illegally at the wheel and 100 people not wearing a seatbelt during the recent week of action, tagged Operation Vertebrae,


In total there were 412 vehicles stopped by police using the unmarked cabs, supplied by National Highways, including 180 HGVs and 122 private vehicles.


Action taken ranged from words of advice or fixed penalty notices to traffic offences being reported and even six arrests.


In the Midlands, there were 123 offences recorded by Warwickshire Police including 63 people not wearing a seatbelt and 19 using a mobile phone. While Central Motorway Police Group recorded 127 offences including 52 people using their mobile phone at the wheel and 31 not wearing a seatbelt.


Among the vehicles stopped in Warwickshire were two vans with disqualified drivers and a vehicle stolen in a car-jacking that was being driven on false plates. The driver was arrested.


A lorry with six defective tyres and with an excess load of some 15 tonnes was among the vehicles spotted elsewhere on the M6. Lancashire Police reported the driver for the traffic offences and the HGV was taken off the road.

Caption: This vehicle had six defective tyres and was 15 tonnes overweight. Picture: Lancashire Police


While Cheshire Police caught a Fiat van driver who already had six points on his licence holding a mobile phone in his hand while driving.


Operation Vertebrae took place along the length of the M6, the longest motorway in the country. National Highways deals with around 180 reported incidents on the M6 every day including a large number of traffic collisions – 3,485 in 2021 despite the impact of lockdown at the start of the year.


Five forces took part in the week of action – Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire, Warwickshire Police and Central Motorway Police Group, as well as the North West Commercial Vehicle Unit and local road safety partnerships.


Other partners taking part included the DVSA, Health and Safety Executive, HMRC, the Home Office and Immigration Enforcement. The DVSA alone stopped and inspected 249 vehicles and trailers resulting in 282 defects and offences being identified during the week, from 13 to 19 June.

Caption: One of the unmarked HGV cabs which patrolled the M6 in Operation Vertebrae


National Highways Head of Road Safety, Jeremy Phillips, said:

“Our goal, through exercises such as Operation Vertebrae, is to make our roads safer whether that is by encouraging motorists to consider their driving behaviour or ensuring those that put people at risk are fully aware that they can be spotted and will be dealt with by our enforcement partners. 


“It is always disappointing when we learn of drivers putting themselves and others at risk through unsafe driving such as using a mobile phone at the wheel. But through this week of action police were able to identify almost 400 offences and halt drivers who could have caused collisions and harm if they hadn’t been pulled over.”


Inspector Dean Caswell, of Central Motorway Policing Group (CMPG) said:

“This operation enabled officers and partners to prevent the catastrophic consequences of irresponsible driving and get unsafe vehicles off our roads.


“The intensification period of Operation Vertebrae allowed officers to further police one of the country’s busiest motorways, but also enabled CMPG officers, the public and our partners to develop an increased understanding of how we can collectively ensure our roads are safe.


“By targeting dangerous drivers, we can look to save lives and reduce the amount of collisions and incidents we see on our roads on a daily basis.”


Sergeant Shaun Bridle, of Warwickshire Police, said:

“These results will drive our hardworking and dedicated officers to continue to conduct as many commercial vehicle enforcement operations as possible in Warwickshire to protect innocent road users. 


“It seems that not only are some drivers willing to risk their own lives and the lives of others by driving vehicles in a poor and dangerous condition, they are also travelling at speeds of up to 70mph on the M6 whilst being distracted by a mobile phone or not wearing a seatbelt.  In these circumstances a collision would almost certainly be fatal to the driver and the consequences for other innocent road users do not bear thinking about.   


“The excuses given to our officers for not wearing a seatbelt include ‘sorry I forgot‘ and overall those not wearing a seatbelt seem to be simply lazy or display a lack of concern.  In 2022 this is not ok.  Road safety is everyone’s responsibility and drivers and businesses must do everything they can to keep everyone safe on our roads.


“We have just announced a new partnership with National Highways Driving for Better Business programme and are calling on all fleet managers to play your part in improving road safety by signing up to the programme to protect employees and make our county’s roads safer for everyone.”


The unmarked HGV cabs are loaned to police forces across the country throughout the year as part of Operation Tramline which was launched in 2015 by National Highways, then Highways England. Over 29,000 offences have been recorded to date by officers in the HGVs since the national safety initiative began.


National Highways recently released footage of one driver caught using his mobile phone by officers in an Operation Tramline HGV as he drove along the A500 in Stoke-on-Trent. The driver is seen with his phone in one hand and a drink in the other before taking both hands completely off the wheel to put down his drink and move the phone back to his right hand.


In a second clip, a lorry driver has both of his hands in a tobacco pouch and then rolls a cigarette as he drives along the M40 in Warwickshire before looking over to see the camera rolling in the HGV next to him.


Media enquiries: National Highways PressOfficeMidlands@NationalHighways.co.uk

Date Issued 14.07.22