The HGV tractor units are being deployed to catch drivers using phones.

The police’s modified ‘Supercab’ trucks, designed to record drivers committing mobile phone or other safety offences, are now patrolling the M25. The vehicles, which have been specially adapted for the task, are engaging in a two-week operation on London’s orbital motorway in a bid to improve safety.

Following on from a successful stint on the M1, which saw the accident rate fall by a third, the supercabs are being deployed to catch drivers who use mobile phones behind the wheel, or commit other offences such as driving without a seatbelt.

The Supercabs, which have been funded by Highways England, the government-run company in charge of the country’s motorways, allow police officers to film evidence of unsafe driving behaviour by driving alongside vehicles. Offending drivers can then be pulled over by police cars following behind. The vehicles have had their speed limiters removed, allowing them to travel at speeds of up to 70 mph.

At the same time, officers will check vans and lorries for road worthiness, as well as secure loads, weight and drivers’ hours. And at various service stations around the route, police will be educating drivers about road safety and providing free tyre checks.

The operation is being dubbed Operation Orbital, and has been implemented because December 2018 saw more than 400 collisions on the 117-mile motorway. Those collisions, Highways England claims, often cause congestion and delays for motorists, as well as affecting companies that travel to ports and airports.

British motorway M25 during sunset

“I welcome initiatives to reduce the number of people killed or injured on our roads,” said the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing chief constable Anthony Bangham. “We have seen similar successful collaborations between the police and Highways England in the past and I am pleased to see us working together again. We want all of those using our roads to do so safely and we will prosecute drivers who put themselves and others at risk by breaking the law.”

Evening heavy traffic on busiest British motorway M25 in London

Meanwhile Colin Evans, the regional road safety officer for Highways England in the south-east of England, said the operation could make the road safer for all.

“The busiest sections of the M25 are used for nearly 200,000 journeys every day, ranging from commuters getting to work to haulage firms delivering goods along the route or overseas,” he said. “We know that the vast majority of drivers obey the law but a few are risking potentially devastating consequences by driving dangerously. Over these two weeks of action, enforcement agencies will be carrying out a coordinated series of checks all around the M25 to help improve safety for everyone.”

Evening traffic on the busiest British motorway M25