Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mayor Wants More Restrictions to be Imposed on London Road Haulage Operators

TfL Launches Consultation but Intends to Stiffen Regulations Yet Again
Shipping News Feature
UK – Road haulage operators have responded after Transport for London (TfL) released research which it says proves that having direct vision from the cab of a lorry rather than relying on mirrors and monitors has a substantial impact on improving road safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The findings have been published as TfL launches the first consultation, running for 12 weeks until April 18, into the use of its 'zero to five star' Direct Vision Standard for HGVs operating in the Capital, which will aim to identify how the new Standard can be best used to reduce road casualties on London's roads. Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said:

“This new research being released today shows how important it is we take bold action to address dangerous and poorly designed lorries operating in the Capital. HGVs with poor vision of cyclists, pedestrians and other road users from their cabin should simply not be allowed on London's roads. Every time someone is killed by a lorry on London's roads it is an appalling tragedy.

“Our ground-breaking Direct Vision Standard will be the first of its kind in the world, and TfL will lead by example by not using any zero-star lorries in its future supply chain. By continuing to work closely with industry, and beginning our first consultation now, we're confident that many of the most dangerous lorries on London's roads will be upgraded before our ban comes into place.”

Under the Mayor's plans, the most dangerous HGVs will be banned from London's streets entirely by January 2020. These HGVs, often 'off-road' lorries (Editor’s note: whatever that contradiction in terms means), would be 'zero-star rated' by the Direct Vision Standard, which is determined by the level of vision the driver has directly from the cab. By setting out their plans now, TfL expect many dangerous lorries will be upgraded before the restriction on the most dangerous HGVs comes into place in 2020.

TfL says that recent data shows HGVs were involved in 22.5% of pedestrian fatalities and 58% of cyclist fatalities on London's roads in 2014 and 2015, despite only making 4% of the miles driven in the Capital. News of the proposed changes comes just months after TfL instituted mandatory changes to mirror regulations for vehicles working in the City meaning hauliers had to add extra units to many vehicles.

According to TfL, as part of the new research, a simulator was used to replicate a real-life driving situation for the first time, and it showed that the amount of direct vision a driver actually has could be a crucial factor in allowing a dangerous collision to be avoided. The study showed that drivers respond, on average 0.7 second slower when checking blind spots and monitors compared to directly through the windows. This delay can result in a lorry travelling an extra 1.5 metres before seeing a nearby road user, enough to cause death or serious injury.

TfL and the Greater London Authority say they are leading by example and will include the new Direct Vision Standard in new contracts from April. Both hope that this will help further stimulate the market for safer lorries with improved direct vision. Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL, said:

“Removing lorries that are unsuitable for London's busy roads will improve road safety for all. Our Direct Vision Standard will be key in this and by continuing to engage with the freight industry it can begin to have a positive effect now. This won't just increase safety, it will improve how our streets are used. We now know that another benefit of being able to make eye contact with a driver is that it makes pedestrian and cyclists feel safer, and this feeling can make our streets nicer places to live in and visit.”

Unfortunately, as any small to medium road haulage operator will be aware, TfL and the GLA are not restricted to a normal commercial budget, nor will there be any controversy over any contracts issued as regards cost, as all companies tendering for such business will factor in the price of the new or upgraded equipment. Hardly the norm in the commercial world where a truck bought this year or already in service is expected to serve well beyond 2020 by many owners.

As far as the death rate for cyclists is concerned, truck drivers will doubtless point out there are more factors to this than those declared by the mayor. Most accidents between trucks and cyclists have involved a very high proportion of construction vehicles i.e. tippers (possibly what he means by ‘off road lorries’) and also the cyclist is more often than not female. This latter would seem to indicate an inability to fully understand just how restricted is the view from an average HGV cab.

In figures published in 2015, women cyclists who died in London road accidents formed 75% of total deaths and all were killed by lorries. In June of that year the Evening Standard revealed of the 33 female deaths since 2009, 27 (82%) were hit by lorries. Only 22 of the 51 men who died in that same period collided with lorries (43%); 17 with cars; four with buses; three with vans; two with coaches; and one each with a rollerblader, a parked car and an opening car door. In the four years to that article every single woman who died on London’s roads, 16 in all, was killed by a truck.

The road haulage industry is once again to face the cost of making improvements to equipment yet there still remains no legislation regarding who can ride in London traffic. Anyone can pay £2 to jump on one of the many Santander hire bicycles so favoured by the mayor, with no experience whatsoever of riding in such a congested urban environment.

Of course it behoves the industry to reduce accidents (and pollution) by whatever means possible but, if those in authority believe they will reduce the accident rate to zero without persuading cyclists to ensure they are better equipped for the conditions, and indeed pedestrians to cease the practice of walking straight across roads without looking as their cell phones and tablets consume all their attention, then such a day is a very long way off.

As one driver commented to us when told of this latest research:

”If Mr Khan is so keen on saving the lives of cyclists and pedestrians he might consider banning the use of headphones and similar technology and ensuring everybody taking to the road had at least a fraction of the sort of training an HGV driver has to have. If I wore headphones in my cab I would be lambasted for putting others in danger but when a fatality or serious accident like this occurs it is not just the injured party who suffers.”

Photo: Police gather to investigate the death of a cyclist.