Transport for London (TfL) and London Councils have begun their consultation on the Safer Lorries Scheme, which will see a ban on lorries that do not have safety equipment to protect cyclists and pedestrians from the capital's streets.
The Safer Lorries Scheme will use a combination of powers held by TfL and London Boroughs to deliver a complete solution across all London roads.
The proposed ban will require every vehicle in London over 3.5 tonnes - which TfL says are involved in a disproportionate number of fatal collisions with cyclists and pedestrians - to be fitted with sideguards to protect cyclists from being dragged under the wheels in the event of a collision.
It will also require them to be fitted with mirrors giving the driver a better view of cyclists and pedestrians around their vehicles.
The ban would operate across London 24 hours a day, seven days a week, covering the same area as the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ). It would be enforced by on-street enforcement and, in the future, could move to CCTV cameras subject to further approval by the Department for Transport and London boroughs.
One of the Mayor and TfL's top priorities is to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on London's roads by 40% by 2020, and action is being taken to prioritise the safety of what it has identified as the most vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
Of the 14 cyclist deaths in London in 2013, nine involved HGVs. Vehicles that would be affected by this scheme would need to be retrofitted to comply. TfL says side guards can be fitted from approximately £500 and extended view mirrors can be fitted for approximately £300 per mirror. Subject to the outcome of the consultation and legal procedures, the ban could be in place by early 2015.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "I have long been worried that a large number of cyclist deaths involve a relatively small number of problem lorries which are not fitted with safety equipment. My Safer Lorries Scheme would see those lorries effectively banned from our streets and the lives of thousands of cyclists and pedestrians would be much safer as a result.
"Vehicles that would be affected by this scheme can easily be retrofitted to comply and doing so will save lives. Companies such as Sainsbury's and O'Donovan Waste Disposal are already leading the way when it comes to cyclist safety and I urge others to follow suit."
London's Transport Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, said: "The proposed Safer Lorries Scheme is a further demonstration of how London is working with the freight industry to drive up safety standards. Many vehicles in London will already comply with this scheme, but by forcing the dangerous minority to follow suit, we can ensure that everyone is doing what they can to help make our roads as safe as possible."
Councillor Julian Bell, Chair of London Council's Transport and Environment Committee (TEC), said: "Heavy goods vehicles play an essential role in London's economy, so the challenge we face is ensuring hauliers' needs are balanced with the protection of other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
"London Councils is fully supportive of TfL in developing the Safer Lorries Scheme. We encourage stakeholders from across London to contribute to this consultation, to ensure these safety measures are as effective as they can be in protecting all road users."
Sainsbury's Retail & Operations Director Roger Burnley said: "We're proud to be here to support the Safer Lorry Scheme today. We've put an enormous amount of thought and research into creating a truck that we hope will be the safest on the road - for all road users."
Under national legislation, many HGVs must already be fitted with safety equipment. However, construction lorries, tipper trucks, waste vehicles, cement mixers and certain other forms of HGV are currently exempt from having sideguards fitted. HGVs registered before 2000 are also exempt from the requirement to have extended view mirrors fitted.
CYCLISTS AT RISK
The rising number of such vehicles in London's building boom increases the risk to the growing number of cyclists, who now make up almost a quarter of all rush hour traffic in central London. In recent years, both TfL and Crossrail have implemented contractual requirements that sideguards and safety mirrors need to be fitted to any vehicle over 3.5 tonnes working for them.
Once launched, the Safer Lorries Scheme would form one part of the continuing work that is already underway across London to improve road safety involving freight vehicles, in particular construction vehicles. Regular road safety police operations continue to be carried out by the Industrial HGV Task Force across London, targeting non-compliant heavy goods vehicles, drivers and operators using the capital's roads.
Since last October, this has resulted in almost 3,000 vehicles being stopped, with 36 vehicles being seized, 1,319 roadworthiness prohibitions given to drivers and a further 776 fixed penalty notices issued.
Sainsbury’s has launched a lorry designed specifically for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.
The vehicle – unveiled by Mayor of London Boris Johnson at City Hall during the Safer Lorries Scheme announcement - features 360° monitors, extra side lighting for road users at night, and low side guards for cyclist safety. It was designed in collaboration with Solomon and Mercedes.
Roger Burnley added: "This is an important step in our work to make London’s roads safer. We’ve put an enormous amount of thought and research into creating a truck that we hope will be the safest on the road – for all road users."
The new truck features (see graphic):
- New video technology in the cab giving 360° vision of the surrounding road
- New proximity sensors down the sides of the lorry that beep to alert the driver to other road users
- Side guard extensions and reflective infills to help stop cyclists from falling under the vehicle
- More indicators along the sides to increase awareness that the truck is turning
- More downlights along the sides that glow at night, giving the driver more visibility of road users in the dark
- A warning sticker to alert road users that they are in the driver’s blind spot
- A tail lift operation warning – so that there will be an audible sound when the tail lift is being lowered – that’s for anyone behind the vehicle
- Further driver training on higher safety standards in the truck
INDUSTRY REACTION: "SIGNIFICANT COST"
Hilary Devey (pictured), the founder and CEO of palletised freight network Pall-Ex, and a familiar face on TV screens, commented: “Anything that helps to cut the number of fatalities on our roads should be embraced. However, I do think that it is a balancing act and that more needs to be done to educate all road users.
“We also need to be looking at how these proposed changes will be funded, especially for smaller hauliers. The planned specification, although necessary, will come at a significant cost, and Mr Johnson needs to examine how haulage firms can be supported to make sure vehicles meet the standards of this proposed scheme.”
Adam Hopcroft, managing director at Wembley-based haulier Premier Palletised Limited, which is also part of Hilary Devey’s Pall-Ex network, commented: “Statistically, HGV drivers are still among the safest on the roads. I welcome any initiative that will save lives but feel that cycling rules in cities need radically reviewing.
“Why are unregulated cyclists allowed the use the same roads that everybody else has to pass a test to be on? I know space is at a premium, but stricter training and cycle laws need to be put in place.
“It seems quite acceptable that a cyclist can wear headphones blocking out awareness of everything around him - surely that is crazy? It is also legal for cyclists to ride without headgear - surely that should be addressed? These are simple things that would help decrease accidents with not only HGVs but all road traffic.
“I will embrace all new initiatives but they will have to be applied to more than just lorry drivers. Everyone on the roads of London has a part to play in the health and safety of road users.”
FTA: "BETTER WAYS EXIST"
Freight Transport Association (FTA) has welcomed the changes that have been made in improving the design of the London Safer Lorry Scheme (SLS). However, it still believes that the blanket regulations of this type have their limitations and that other approaches would have better results in improving cyclist safety.
Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of Urban Logistics Policy, commented: “Good progress has been made since the concept was announced last September. We have moved away from a £200 a day charging scheme and now some of the necessary exemptions have been incorporated in to the SLS proposals.”
FTA welcomed the inclusion of some specific exemptions for certain types of vehicles that would not be suited to these pieces of equipment. For example, some smaller vehicles are not able to fit the mirrors suggested, as at that height they would be against the law due to danger to pedestrians.
However, says FTA, further concessions are needed to make sure the requirements are in line with current UK and EU new build lorry requirements. The current proposals still have the potential to disrupt important traffic that is not highly represented in cyclist fatalities, such as container movements.
Overall FTA still believes that the best way forward on HGVs and cyclist safety is a more targeted approach than this type of blanket regulation allows. The best use of Transport for London’s time and money as regards HGVs would be to maintain a higher level of enforcement against poor-quality operators who break the existing laws, and FTA will again recommend that approach to TfL in its response.
Snelling concluded: "We are always concerned about new regulatory instruments being created, their compliance and enforcement costs, and how politicians might decide to change or extend these powers in the future. Safety on the roads is a complex issue and politicians often reach for the simplistic solution.
“There is no one magic solution to safety on our roads. Unless everyone involved takes intelligent action, the problem will not improve as much as we all want.”