The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, recently announced ‘ground-breaking proposals’ to remove dangerous heavy goods vehicles from the city’s roads to make London safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Stuart Kightley, Partner at Osbornes LLP, examines in more detail the background to the proposals.
What heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) come under the Mayor’s proposals to ban unsafe HGVs and what has prompted this move?
The dangers posed to cyclists and pedestrians by HGVs on London’s streets have long been recognised by policy makers. Transport for London (TfL) research shows that lorries are almost 10 times more likely to be involved in fatal collisions than cars.
Progress was made with TfL’s Safer Lorry Scheme in 2015, which required all lorries over 3.5 tonnes driving in London to be fitted with near-side kerb mirrors and wide angle mirrors as well as side guards; measures that were intended to improve driver visibility and protect cyclists from being dragged under a lorry’s wheels.
Building on that work, TfL promoted further in-cab improvements in driver visibility and published a consultation in January 2016, proposing the introduction of glass side panels beneath the passenger side window of lorries.
That consultation met with widespread support, save from the hauliers who claimed that the case was not made out and did not justify the expense. Perhaps they would say that, wouldn’t they, but in fact their view was supported by research commissioned by TfL and carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).
That research suggested that glass panels would only deliver a very limited improvement in driver visibility. They would only show that part of a cyclist which happened to be alongside the window, and if there was a passenger in the cab that would be a very small part indeed. Furthermore, glass panels would not be suitable for some types of lorry.
So the glass panel idea was dropped. But the good news for cyclists was that this incremental and perhaps dubious improvement was superseded by a much more comprehensive – perhaps revolutionary – plan to regulate and improve lorry driver visibility, the Direct Vision Standard.
What is the new Direct Vision Standard and what obligations does it place on those involved in the manufacture and maintenance of lorries in the capital?
The Direct Vision Standard was developed by TRL (paper published 30 September 2016). Its research analysed collision data and assessed the effect of impaired vision in common accident scenarios and across a range of lorry types. It analysed off-road 4-axel tipper trucks and other construction site vehicles at one end of the scale to state-of-the-art low cab, high viz lorries at the other.
The paper recommended a classification protocol for lorries depending on the quality of their range of vision, from zero to five stars.
Off-road construction vehicles with high cabs, dashboards and windows, which currently number about 35,000 in London, would attract a zero-star rating, on-road lorries could attract a higher rating by virtue of their lower height, and could improve that rating with adaptations, eg door window or dashboard remodelling to a three-star rating, whereas modern low-entry cabs with full height door windows would attain a five-star rating.
Zero-rated vehicles will be banned from the city by 2020 and one and two-star vehicles by 2024, leaving only lorries rated highly for driver visibility on London’s roads eight years from now.
How will the Mayor and the Greater London Authority work with councils to seek to ensure this ban is implemented fully, ie utilising TfL and public sector procurement?
This is a legally enforceable scheme, and will no doubt take effect as a Traffic Order, but TfL has worked with industry on its proposals and the implementation timetable has been designed to fit with the natural procurement cycle (the average working lifespan of these vehicles being about seven to eight years).
In addition, the Mayor has announced that TfL and the wider Greater London Authority group will adopt the new Direct Vision Standard in all new contracts from the next financial year, and will engage with developers and other councils to encourage them to do likewise.
Any other interesting trend/developments in this area worthy of note?
The scheme should go a long way towards protecting London’s vulnerable road users from dangerous lorries. The only complaint with it is that it need not compromise: with an eight-year lead in, it should be possible to require all lorries to meet the gold standard rather than just to attain a three-star rating.
Interviewed by Susan Ghaiwal for Lexi Nexis