Recent Parliamentary information on satellite navigation devices and HGVs can be found via this link.

Government policy

Satnavs (technically referred to as ‘in vehicle information systems’ or IVIS) are currently subject to licensing provisions of the Road Traffic (Driver Licensing and Information Systems) Act 1989 and the Driver Information Systems (Exemption) Order 1990 (SI 1990/865).

In 2006 the Labour Government consulted on IVIS further to significant technological advances since the introduction of the original legislation. [1] The results of the consultation were published in May 2008. It committed to taking forward further work in some areas of IVIS such as:

  • encouraging the industry to develop a code of practice on the design, routing and safe use of satnav systems; and
  • exploring how to improve communications between local authorities, mapping companies, manufacturers and users. [2]

More recently in December 2011 the Coalition Government announced measures to tackle the problem of satnavs inappropriately directing HGVs and other vehicles:

  • New road signs intended to be placed where there are problems with drivers using satellite navigation, which does not require a formal traffic order to be made [820A]; and a formal sign where there is an order [4];
  • Greater data-sharing between highway authorities and mapping providers, together with satnav companies and central Government, to discuss ways in which data sharing can be improved; and
  • Following on from this, introducing cooperative methods for data exchange, helping to provide satnav users with up-to-date information when making their journey. [3]

Most recently, the Transport Minister, Andrew Jones, told the House that:

  • All road users benefit from clear directions, including HGV drivers. It is clearly not in the interests of HGV drivers to rely upon inaccurate information, which may make them late or even involve them in accidents. Nevertheless, we believe that legislation would be a costly, bureaucratic and inappropriate way of dealing with the problem. Instead we have made significant efforts to link together freight associations, local authorities and satnav companies to ensure that HGV drivers are aware of the issue and have the latest information available to them.
  • Councils already have the means to set height and weight restrictions for roads, which are enforced by the police, and HGV satnav devices increasingly include up-to-date routing information that takes account of such restrictions.
  • Decisions on all aspects of traffic management policy are the responsibility of local traffic authorities, and how they and the police enforce this once they are in place it is a matter for them. We believe the necessary enforcement powers are available for this. [7366, 20 July 2015]

There have consistently been calls for the Government to ‘decriminalise’ enforcement of HGV bans by making it a civil offence, enforceable by local authorities, rather than over-stretched police services. [4] The Transport Committee recently endorsed this approach more generally. [5]

 The technology

As indicated above, the Government sees improvements in HGV-specific satnav devices as being key to tackling problems with these vehicles using inappropriate routes. However, it is not clear how many HGV drivers use a bespoke system (which can be expensive compared to their generic equivalents, e.g. here) and how many others rely on more generic satnav, or free-to-use options like Google maps on a smartphone.

It is possible to have the maps corrected, though it is not clear how long it takes for changes to come on stream. Almost all satnavs run off information provided by two mapping companies: Navteq/Here and Tele Atlas/TomTom. Both companies provide reporting systems on their websites, on which users can report problems.

Issues on Kent roads

There have been ongoing issues with wrongly-directed HGVs in Kent, exacerbated by the county’s Channel links and the large volume of foreign-registered traffic that travels through it.

In 2012 the then MP for South Thanet, Laura Sandys, talked of the problems caused by HGVs using the A257, which runs from Sandwich to Canterbury and passes through small communities such as Ash, Shatterling and Wingham. [6]

There is a particular problem in the town of Sandwich. In 2014 a local Lorry Watch programme found that there were more than 250 large vehicles entering the town every day. [7]

Kent County Council’s Freight Action Plan for 2012-16 stated that it was working to develop an online lorry journey planner; using ‘positive signing’ to direct lorries onto the most suitable roads; and had attended the Government’s ‘satnav summit’. In the future it would

  • lobby and try to work with satnav manufacturers to update their mapping data so that lorry-appropriate routes can be generated and ensure that data is available to aid the development of accurate lorry satnav systems;
  • utilise the Freight Quality Partnership (FQP) model to help develop routing solutions, particularly when working with a local haulage company;
  • update the lorry route maps for the county from the previous version issued in 2001;
  • review HGV signing across the county to ensure that it is clear and appropriate; and
  • encourage the use of lorry-specific satnav systems, for example when working with industry representatives and haulage companies, and in KCC’s own road safety information. [8]


  1. DfT, In-Vehicle Information Systems (IVIS) consultation document, 9 October 2006
  2. DfT, In-vehicle information systems initial consultation: Summary of responses, 13 May 2008
  3. DfT, Road Network Policy Consultation – Response, December 2011
  4. LGA, “New powers called for by councils to combat lorry drivers who cause chaos in rural communities”, 26 February 2016
  5. Transport Committee, Road traffic law enforcement, HC 518, 15 March 2016, section 7
  6. Hold-ups in Kent due to sat-nav blunders could soon be at an end”, Kent News, 12 January 2012
  7. Sandwich Town Team lorry watch programme proves too many large vehicles enter the town”, Kent Online, 15 August 2014
  8. KCC, Freight Action Plan for Kent 2012-2016, 16 October 2012

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