Thursday, October 22, 2020

Is the Government About to Launch More Deaths on the Streets? Road Haulage Lobby Speaks Out

Consultation on Vulnerable Road Users Closes Soon as Proposed Policy Described as 'Insane'
Shipping News Feature

UK – The Department for Transport consultation on a review of the Highway Code with a view to upgrading the status of vulnerable road users which was launched by the government in March, closes for submissions on 27 October and the results of changes likely to be imposed will have ramifications for lorry and van drivers which have generated an angry response from some quarters of the logistics community.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) for example has said that the proposal to make the drivers of larger vehicles automatically take more responsibility for accidents, is the start of a shift in the legal liability for road users, and a move towards a presumption of guilt for those driving the largest vehicles.

The RHA says it has serious concerns with regards to the impact the proposed changes might make, affecting safety as well as legal liabilities. Tom Cotton, Policy-Infrastructure England and Wales at the lobby group, said:

“It is concerning that the Government is moving away from the concept that road safety is a responsibility all road users share. We all need to take responsibility for our own and others safety when using the roads. We already require those driving larger vehicles to be better trained than all other road users, training and the licensing system already creates a hierarchy that supports road safety. The Highway Code hierarchy proposal, while well intentioned, is wrong.”

The other proposal objected to by the RHA is one which will give anyone who has taken charge of an HGV cause to raise their eyebrows in disbelief. This is the new rule mooted that gives a cyclist a right of way to undertake turning vehicles. That would mean a lorry driver giving way to a cyclist, riding on the inside of his or vehicle, even when the truck is in the process of turning right, already the cause of innumerable deaths and injuries amongst the bike riding community.

We have pointed out before the fact that this type of casualty occurs with female riders involved in a disproportionate amount of incidents, and pondered why this should be the case, and we are not alone in this. Certainly for any rider to pass on the inside of a moving truck is dangerous, no matter who might later be held to account, this will be little solace to a grieving family, far better to avoid such things happening.

We have also raised the points that anyone can get on a bicycle and ride through the city streets without any training whatsoever and with no insurance of any kind. Nor is there a licence which can be withdrawn no matter how badly the rider behaves. Compare this to the onerous responsibility of a lorry driver who has a battery of legislation to ensure good behaviour. A driving licence, CPC card, full third party insurance, regular mandatory training, limited driving time and compulsory breaks and rest periods etc. all monitored by tachograph and retained for inspection by the authorities.

Doubtless almost the entire truck and van road going community believe this proposal must be dropped, Logistics UK spoke out when the consultation began and every driver we spoke to agreed, with comments ranging from ‘insane’ to ‘have these people ever driven a truck?’ This position was confirmed by Tom Cotton, who concluded:

“The proposal to give cyclists a special rule that gives them a right of way to pass a turning vehicle is dangerous, it simply defies logic to promote a manoeuvre that puts cyclist in the dangerous and vulnerable position on the road.”

Photo: Graph showing the proportion of female to male cyclists in London in a TfL survey taken in 2012. Despite there being well over twice as many men riding than women, all 6 deaths on London streets were to female riders, a normal statistic, and every year the principal cause of death is undertaking lorries which are turning left.