HUNDREDS of motorists have been caught dangerous driving after being spotted by an unmarked HGV patrolling the region in the past year.

For the last 12 months Operation Tramline has been targeting drivers on some of the country's fastest roads, including the A66, A19 and A1.

Police officers in the North-East issued 79 penalty charge notices and filed 22 traffic offence reports – usually requiring drivers to attend a driver education course. There were also three prosecutions for more serious offences.

In February, the operation was in County Durham and Cleveland force areas targeting large good vehicles which resulted in fines for 26 drivers for failing to wear seatbelts.

Another six drivers were given traffic offence reports for driving whilst using mobile phones and not being in proper control of a vehicle, meaning they could be eligible for an educational course, or could receive a fine.

The Northern Echo:

The HGVs used during the operation

Travelling in an unmarked tractor unit makes it easier for the officers to see into the cab of a large goods vehicle.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: “We remain committed to tackling those who take unnecessary risks with their own safety and the safety of others on our roads by allowing themselves to be distracted while driving. The consequences of these actions are often devastating.

“We will continue to work alongside Highways England on Operation Tramline and will prosecute drivers who ignore the risks.”

Footage captured using the cabs in their first year included a lorry driver using his mobile phone to make a credit card payment as he travelled along the M40 near Leamington Spa. The trucker was seen holding his credit card in one hand and his phone in the other.

A van driver was also spotted with no hands on the wheel as he used one hand to change gear and the other to hold his mobile phone. The incident happened as he travelled along the A38 near Derby, even though he pulled into a service station to stop just a few seconds later.

Tom Cotton, Road Haulage Association’s head of licensing and infrastructure policy, said: “We need to improve road safety – there’s a small minority of drivers whose actions endanger other road users often with tragic consequences.

“Operation Tramline is an invaluable initiative to help police catch the drivers putting themselves and others at risk.”