According to the most recent annual ‘Casualties in Greater London’ report, published by Transport for London (TfL) last summer, the number of people killed or seriously injured on London roads in 2015 fell from the previous year’s 2,167 to 2,092 – a reduction of 3% and the lowest number since records began.
The city is on course to have reduced such incidents by 50% by 2020. While this is undoubtedly good news, there is always room for improvement.
As part of the ongoing initiative to improve road safety for pedestrians and cyclists, from 24th January a 12-week consultation will look at how the government’s Direct Vision Standard for HGVs operating in the capital can be best used to reduce road casualties.
The Direct Vision Standard assesses how much HGV drivers can see directly from the cab in relation to other road users, and rates HGVs from zero stars, for vehicles with the lowest direct vision, to five stars. Lorries rated zero stars will be banned from London’s roads by January 2020.
The consultation follows the publication of research looking into potential improvements to road safety through expanding HGV cabs’ field of vision. The research included using a simulator to replicate a real-life driving situation, and the results showed that on average, drivers respond 0.7 seconds slower when checking blind spots and monitors, compared to being able to see directly through the windows.
That translates to a lorry travelling a further 1.5 metres before the driver reacts – enough to cause death or serious injury. It seems clear that if lorry drivers have direct vision from the cab rather than relying on mirrors and monitors, then there is a positive and substantial impact on levels of road safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
Obviously any action to improve road safety is to be applauded, however it could be argued that TfL’s approach seems to be one-sided.
While hauliers have already complied with mandatory changes to mirror regulations for vehicles working in the city, cyclists aren’t required to prove proficiency, and in fact can pick up a Santander bike and take to the roads without any instruction whatsoever.
There’s also the issue of cyclists wearing headphones and even using smartphones; if an HGV driver were to do something similar on the road, there would – quite rightly – be an outcry.
Of course, the new standard will potentially cost businesses money – possibly in lost work as well as in updating the fleet. TfL and the Greater London Authority say they will include the Direct Vision Standard in new contracts from April 2017, which might mean that some businesses with non-compliant vehicles will lose work, while others will be excluded from tendering.
In the short term, this might result in a shake-up for some hauliers operating in the south-east, and potentially improve opportunities for those businesses with Direct Vision Standard compliant vehicles.
In the longer term it remains to be seen how the new rules will impact on hauliers in real terms, but it would seem prudent for hauliers to quickly get up to speed on the Direct Vision Standard and start planning accordingly. A sensible first step would be to ensure you know the ratings of the vehicles in your existing fleet.
Next, put in place a provision that any due for replacement before 2020 are replaced with vehicles that meet the new requirements.
Finally, look at any ways in which vehicles expected to be in use beyond that date might be amended or altered so that they pass muster, or whether it would even be cost-effective to replace them with compliant vehicles rather than potentially lose contracts.
We’d love to hear your opinion on the new Direct Vision Standard, so please feel free to leave a comment below.