Road Haulage Gets a Look at How Freight Trucks Must Adapt to Meet New Standards

Initial Direct Vision Standards Published by Transport for London UK – There has been more than a little trepidation, and in fact rumblings of discontent, amongst the road haulage community with regard to the new ‘Direct Vision Standards’ (DVS) affecting freight trucks working in London. Now Transport for London (TfL) has issued details of which trucks will be acceptable to carry freight in the capital from 2020 via its DVS rating scheme. Changing standards of acceptability and further restriction notices are to be issued in due course for the ensuing four years.

Amongst the proposals being put forward are plans for an HGV safety permit scheme based on the DVS ratings, and industry-recognised safety systems to reduce road dangers.

TfL says its policy has in part been guided through consultations with the industry and now it has released its first indication of which trucks will be legal to operate with interim HGV star ratings, which can be checked here. The DVS will be the first initiative of its kind to categorise HGVs depending on the level of a driver’s direct vision from a cab. HGVs will be given a rating between ‘zero-star’ (lowest) and ‘five-star’ (highest), with only those vehicles rated ‘three-star’ and above, or which have comprehensive safety systems, able to operate in London from 2024.

If approved, the proposals will require all HGVs over 12 tonnes to hold a safety permit to enter or operate in the Capital from 2020. Those rated ‘one star’ and above would automatically be granted a permit, while those rated ‘zero star’ (lowest) would have to include specific recognised safety systems, such as sensors, visual warnings and comprehensive driver training, before a permit is granted. The safety permit scheme is scheduled to evolve over time, taking into account advances in technology.

Tfl says that alongside developing the Direct Vision Standard and the proposed safety permit scheme, it is also lobbying the European Commission for changes in international vehicle safety and design regulations to push for long term improvements to future HGV fleets. TfL says it conducted research which showed that during 2014 and 2015, HGVs were involved in disproportionately high numbers of fatal collisions with cyclists (58%) and pedestrians (22.5%) on London’s streets, despite only making 4% of the miles driven in the Capital. In 2016 TfL consulted on further improving lorry safety in London, which included consideration of mandating clear side panels in lorry doors to increase visibility.

In order to legally require clear side panels TfL would have had to go through the same process of creating a Direct Vision Standard. Subsequent independent research has shown this proposal would have little impact on cyclist safety and no impact on pedestrian safety – and due to the requirements for enforcement – would be delivered at the same timescale as the Mayor’s proposals. Reaction from the industry has generally been warm with the Road Haulage Association (RHA) in the vanguard of lobbyists pressing the cause of lorries in London.

However there was a cautious note in the response from RHA chief executive Richard Burnett, who said: “This only highlights the scale of the issue and reaffirms what we’ve been saying for some time, that the vast proportion of existing HGV’s will not meet their currently proposed standards. It is positive that we now have an opportunity to work with TfL and the industry to find an effective solution to improve road safety in a balanced way and to have recognition that the issue is complex and will require a lot more work to ensure that the best possible road safety benefits are obtained.

“The proposal for Direct Vision Standards may be part of the road safety mix; however it is unlikely to be the panacea to the road safety challenges faced by London. TfL have not been clear about what impact the proposal will have on road safety as the focus has been on the engineering standards and visibility from the cab in isolation from other factors. “The RHA will continue to work with TfL and operators to ensure that we achieve the best possible outcome for safety but we need their reassurance that the cost of permits will be set to do no more than recover the cost of operating the permit scheme.

Any charges over and above that will amount to a tax on operators and the people and businesses of London.”

Road Haulage Gets a Look at How Freight Trucks Must Adapt to Meet New Standards

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