Friday, September 30, 2016

New London Lorry Visibility Regulations Draw Comments from Road Haulage Freight Interests

Practicalities for Small Hauliers Ignored as Cyclists and Pedestrians Protected
Shipping News Feature
UK – In the eyes of the road haulage community in the capital the new London mayor, Sadiq Khan. Is not covering himself in glory with his latest pronouncement which decrees that 35,000 or so trucks which he deems have ‘insufficient visibility’ from the cab will be banned from travelling on the roads of the metropolis by 2020. The mayor’s plans do not stop there, under the new ‘star system’ proposed, five stars being those with excellent visibility, only lorries rated as three stars (good) or above will be allowed access to London’s roads by 2024.

Cynics say that the mayor is trying to ‘outdo Boris’ as regards preserving the safety of cyclists and indeed those 35,000 zero star trucks, principally construction vehicles such as tippers with high ground clearance and significant blind spots, are involved in around of 70% of cycling fatalities in the capital. Critics say that technology however is moving apace and now camera’s and retrofitted mirrors are helping drivers to spot cyclists foolish enough to try and pass such trucks on the inside whilst turning left.

Both Transport for London (TfL) and the Greater London Authority will from this year not allow any zero star rated lorries to take up either organisations contracts, whilst the mayor himself said:

“I’m not prepared to stand by and let dangerous lorries continue to cause further heartbreak and tragedy on London’s roads. Our ground breaking direct vision standard will be the first of its kind in the world, directly addressing the issue of lethal driver blind spots. I’m also proud that TfL will lead by example and will not use any zero-star lorries in its supply chain from the new financial year.”

We have long put both sides of this debate and the schemes introduced by the police and others have changed the way which both HGV drivers and cyclists view each other and the difficulties they face. As long ago as November last year 97% of the 18,000 or so cyclists who had tried the excellent ongoing Exchanging Places scheme admitted they would adapt their riding style having sat in the cab of a lorry for the first time, whilst lorry drivers felt first hand the dangers of pedalling through London.

Whilst cycling groups welcomed the new moves unreservedly, haulage representatives pointed out that construction traffic was disproportionately involved in the injuries and deaths of both cyclists and pedestrians and that sweeping measures such as those proposed were unbalanced. The Road Haulage Association’s (RHA) Chief Executive Richard Burnett said the measures were simplistic and the industry was already committed and working toward zero deaths on London’s roads, adding:

“Demonising lorries, which keep the economy and shops going, is unfair. Lorries, including construction vehicles, play a vital part in the economic life of London, without them the capital’s businesses would grind to a standstill. We want to bring balance to the argument, we’re not convinced these measures are the solution, improved visibility isn’t going to sort the problem alone.

“All too often cyclists pass buses and lorries on the inside when they are turning left, this is extremely dangerous and road users need to be reminded of basic safety rules. Not all cyclists follow the Highway Code or have had adequate training in road use. The RHA believes there needs to be an education process to raise awareness of the dangers for both cyclists and drivers. The RHA works with cycling groups in London to make roads safer and the imposition of unnecessary rules on haulage firms is unfair. The industry should not be penalised without tackling the broader issues”

The other factor which the mayor’s office does not seem to consider is that, although European laws regarding trucks constructed in the future must have better considerably improved visibility as opposed to older models, with mandatory standards coming into force from 2022, the imposition of the new star system may prove to be an unbearable financial burden for some smaller hauliers working in the capital which tend to use older vehicles, new equipment being out of their financial reach. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) called for reasonable lead times highlighting the need to allow freight operators to plan their fleets to comply with any new requirements. Natalie Chapman, Head of Policy London, said:

“The Mayor’s proposed plan is a much more targeted approach which we welcome. Improving direct vision is in principle a good idea, FTA has been advising members to purchase vehicles with improved direct vision for several years, they should continue to do this as this can only help. But it would be wrong to think of this as some kind of a silver bullet, research suggests that in some incidents involving lorries and cyclists, this may not help.

“Safety is a key priority for FTA members, many have already made major improvements to their vehicles, and introduced advanced driver training. But it should be remembered that for some operators, particularly small businesses, these proposals will be a significant challenge. Industry needs time to adapt and reassurance that the investments that have already been made, for example in sensors and camera technology recommended by TfL, will be taken into account.”

Both the RHA and FTA say they will be in urgent discussion with the mayor’s office and relevant authorities to discuss the situation further. Some industry voices point out the rigorous standards imposed on all HGV drivers compare well as against cyclists who require no formal training, insurance or certification before taking to some of the world’s busiest streets. Dates for new Exchanging Places events can be seen using the link above whilst a video explaining the difficulties can be seen here and illustrates perfectly that no amount of extra practical visibility will eliminate accidents caused by someone ignorant of how to travel safely by two wheels or on foot.