A BBC One show featuring emergency services risking their lives to save others followed Essex Police's unmarked "supercabs" as they spied on dangerous drivers.

The force's work as part of Operation Orbital was the focus of a feature on BBC One’s Critical Incident on Monday (August 28).

The programme, which aired at 10am and is available on iPlayer, follows the Road Commercial Vehicle Unit of Essex Police as they patrol the county’s roads in unmarked “supercabs”.

These are funded by National Highways and give police officers the extra vision they need to see into commercial vehicles, where the cabs are higher than normal vehicles, as well as look down into smaller vehicles where drivers try to hide their behaviour.

This elevated viewpoint helps cops catch those using their phones, not wearing a seatbelt, or behaving dangerously in other ways when they should be concentrating on the road.


Adam Pipe, Essex's head of roads policing, who was interviewed for the programme, said: “Operation Orbital’s focus is to detect and deter driver behaviour that increases the risk to everyone.

“Our job at Essex Police is to make our roads safe and to deal with those offenders who flout the law and put lives at risk.

“Clearly a significant amount of planning goes into such operations, but the results speak for themselves. Our aim is that one day, we will stop no vehicles during our deployment – every stop and action is a disappointment for us.”

During the operations, police also carry out vital safety checks on commercial vehicles to check they are not overloaded, that they are road-worthy and that the driver is not working over their hours.

On the day of filming in December 2022, officers stopped 25 vehicles and reported £2,500 of fines.

Across that four-day week, they stopped 89 vehicles and reported almost £8,000 of fines, with the money from these fines making its way back to HM Treasury.

Sergeant Jason Dearsley, who leads Essex Police’s CVU and was also filmed for the programme, said: “We welcomed the opportunity to show the British public what we are doing to keep Essex drivers safe.

“Sadly, every year my colleagues and I attend serious collisions on the M25.

"Our focus throughout these operations is to tackle the factors that contribute to these collisions and to identify high harm crimes committed on our roads that put other road users at risk.

“By collaboratively working to tackle offences such as not wearing seat belts or being distracted through using a mobile phone, we hope to reduce the number of collisions - something we are supporting through our work with the Safer Essex Road Partnership under Operation Vision Zero.

“It’s our ambition to have no road deaths by 2040 and anything we can do now to help us achieve that can only be a good thing.”

Operation Tramline sees officers patrolling the entire strategic road network which criss-crosses the whole of Essex, including the M25.

Essex Police’s Commercial Vehicle Unit and the Road Crime Team will combine forces again on this operation, which is planned to run for the week of September 25.