Thursday, January 26, 2017

Road Haulage and Freight Groups Lambast London Mayor on Cycle/Truck Policy

Direct Vision Just One Factor in Causes of Accidents
Shipping News Feature
UK – Following our article on the London Mayor’s new consultation paper concerning the ‘Direct Vision Standard’, the amount of visibility an HGV driver has from his cab, the country’s two top road freight associations have reacted with some scorn over the proposals. Despite the whole road haulage lobby supporting such improvements, evidenced by changes vehicle design and retrospective adjustments, Sadiq Khan stands accused of obscuring the fact that vision from the cab has not proved the key factor in most serious incidents between cyclists and lorries.

Direct Vision Standard (DVS) uses a ‘star rating’ from 0 to 5 to rate HGVs based on the level of vision the driver has directly from the cab. Zero star-rated HGVs will be banned from London’s roads in 2020, with only those vehicles achieving a rating of three stars or above allowed from 2024.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) expressed major concern about the tone and content of the Mayor of London’s consultation on direct vision lorries with RHA director of policy Jack Semple commenting:

“This is completely the wrong message, completely unjustified and completely unsupported by evidence. We are very concerned to learn this is the first of a series of consultations about HGVs. This is the same Transport for London that has seen congestion soar 30% in two years (2014-15) despite reducing traffic levels, and that’s even before the latest logjams in central London

“Sadiq Khan said he understood business. He is showing no signs of that as far as HGVs are concerned. HGVs are good for London and we need them to replace many of the vans that are taking over London’s streets. We look for evidence from TfL and we get none. We will be doing a full analysis of the consultation and responding in due course.”

The London mayor received more criticism from the Freight Transport Association (FTA) with Head of National and Regional Policy Christopher Snelling pointing out that the London authorities own research indicating that factors other than direct vision were more likely to contribute to these accidents. He observed:

“Direct vision is clearly a benefit in safety and FTA has advised operators for many years to procure vehicles with the best possible sightlines. However, there are limits to the benefits, which means regulating in this way may not be the best answer to improving safety on our roads.

“Research for Transport for London (TfL) has shown that no amount of direct vision would help in most cyclist incidents. Technology may prove a better route to minimising casualties as quickly as possible. Following advice from TfL, many operators have invested in cameras and sensors to eliminate blind spots around cabs with apparent success, as the rates of cyclist safety in London interacting with HGVs have improved significantly in recent years. But now that work is to be mostly ignored as it is not accounted for under the DVS.

“What London business really needs now is clarity concerning the vehicles which will be affected. Many operators are now in the invidious position of needing to procure vehicles to prepare for the Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2019, and yet cannot do so due to the uncertainty over which vehicles will be allowed on London’s roads in 2020 or 2024.

“Based on the research conducted to date, it is impossible to assess the outcomes of this ruling on many kinds of general distribution HGVs, as well as industrial vehicles such as tippers. We understand more detailed information will be made available before the summer, but industry needs this information before it can assess in full the business challenges involved.

“Vehicle design is a global industry and these discussions are best carried out at a European or UN level. But if London is to proceed with this approach, it needs to be ready to make the plan work for logistics so that small hauliers are not pushed out of business. Above all, the benefits of current and future technological solutions must not be ignored.”

One factor which the Associations do not make mention of is the necessity for those who take to city streets on two wheels to ensure they are aware of the dangers when trucks travel in close proximity to cycles. All parties shy away from the idea of mandatory training yet there is concrete evidence that those unfortunate fatalities are often caused simply by ignorance of the dangers posed, something which the excellent ‘Exchanging Places’ events run by the Metropolitan Police Cycle Safety Team has been dealing with for some time, albeit on too small a scale.

Photo: This shot from S&B Commercials shows a Mercedes Benz truck with all the latest safety features.