Thursday, May 17, 2018

EU Publishes New Regulations for Cars and Commercial Road Haulage Vehicles to Cut Death Toll

Sweeping Changes to Vehicle Emissions, Safety Equipment, Infrastructure and Autonomous Technology
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – Safety on the road must always be of paramount importance, both for the private motorist and the road haulage operator, and today the European Commission has launched a programme to address the 25,000 deaths that occur on EU roads annually. The avowed intent is to halve these casualties by 2030, whilst also cutting the number of serious injuries in road accidents. Measures include the first ever CO2 standards for heavy-duty vehicles, a strategic Action Plan for the development and manufacturing of batteries in Europe and a forward-looking strategy on connected and automated mobility.

The analysis of a reduction to the magnitude of casualties envisaged was arrived at after a study by TRL, the UK transport research laboratory and has resulted in a lengthy paper published by the EU (viewable here) which has a complete picture of the cost effectiveness of the measures to be taken. In short the EU has the exclusive authority to set minimum safety standards for all new vehicles sold on the EU market (UK readers let’s not mention the B word at this stage).

The standards were last revised in 2009 and meanwhile there has been a hotchpotch of measures taken by individual urban authorities to restrict a variety of vehicles and raise revenue by doing so. The incoming EU revisions affecting cars, vans, lorries and buses will include mandatory installation of new driver assistance technologies, as well as revised minimum crash testing standards and measures to protect pedestrians and cyclists. These measures are expected to come into force from 2021 onwards.

Fully autonomous vehicles are of course currently being tested across the continent and these will require new measures to ensure they are carefully regulated. Some of the technology is transferable to driver controlled cars, for example overridable Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) and Automated Emergency Braking (AEB). ISA is already offered as standard on many cars and the system usually uses a sign-recognition video camera and a GPS-linked speed limit database to help drivers keep to the current speed limit, thus saving both lives, fuel and speeding penalties.

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has issued a report on prioritising the safety of autonomous vehicles and Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of ETSC, commented on the European Commission’s proposals, saying:

“Taken together, today’s announcements could represent the biggest step forward in road safety in Europe since the introduction of the seat belt. Road traffic injury is still the number one killer of young people across the continent so these essential measures cannot come soon enough. Today’s announcements alone will not make the difference; it is absolutely crucial that EU Member States and the European Parliament give their backing to the plans and that they do not give in to pressure from car manufacturers, who are already attempting to weaken parts of the vehicle safety proposal.”

The new proposals are part of ‘EU Mobility Package III’ and included in the measures are revisions to safety requirements which would see current road and tunnel infrastructure safety management directives extended to include more than the EU TEN-T network. Again the ETSC has published its own position paper calling for all motorways, all EU-funded roads and main roads in the EU should be covered by the new directives in the future. The European Commission estimates that this phase of its proposed measures alone could prevent more than 3000 deaths by 2030.