Consultation on HGV permits and direct vision lorries

Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is committed to ‘Vision Zero’: an elimination of all fatal and serious road collisions by 2041. Part of meeting that commitment is a programme to exclude the most dangerous vehicles, those with the worst ‘blind spots’, by 2020. The latest consultation on lorry safety is intended to take another step towards achieving that goal.

HGVs are involved in approximately 50% of cyclist fatalities and 20% of pedestrian fatalities in London. Transport for London says most respondents to its earlier consultation on lorry safety supported improved ‘direct vision’ (vision through the windscreen rather than via mirrors) for HGVs. 

The Mayor’s latest consultation on the topic proposes a permit system for lorries (over 12 tons) entering London, starting in 2020, that would exclude vehicles rated at less than one star for direct vision [on a one to five star Direct Vision Standard (DVS) scale] unless they include an additional  range of ‘safe systems’ measures as “mitigation” for not making it onto even the first rung of the scale. Safe system measures would include: camera vision systems to cover blind spots, alert systems warning the driver of the proximity of pedestrians or cyclists, audible warnings outside the vehicle and approved training schemes for drivers. 

In 2024 the threshold for exclusion will be raised to three stars, with the range of mitigation measures revised in the light of technology changes that may occur between now and then. 

LCC welcomes the Mayor’s commitment to the elimination of all fatalities and serious injuries and we support the view that he stated after election: 

‘I’m not prepared to stand by and let dangerous lorries continue to cause further heartbreak and tragedy on London’s roads. The evidence is clear – HGVs have been directly involved in over half of cycling fatalities over the last two years, and we must take bold action to make our roads safer for both cyclists and pedestrians.”

Reducing road danger must continue to be a priority for the Mayor. The consultation document states that 50 – 60% of HGVs on the road do not currently meet the one star level of the TfL direct vison standard. This must change and operators must be incentivised to upgrade their vehicles by local authority contracts that specify the use of only the safest lorries, as well as by the kind of regulation proposed in this new consultation. Allowing vehicles with restricted vision to be used on London roads, provided they have specific mitigation measures, can only be a short–term policy while all operators switch to fundamentally safer models. 

In both the refuse and the airport industries lorries with wide panoramic vision and next to no ‘blind spots’ are the norm – the same safety standards need to apply in urban streets. Companies like Dennis-Eagle and Mercedes have already developed five-star graded HGV cabs, previously limited to refuse collection and airside use, for various construction and delivery uses. 

It is welcome that the proposed permit system in the Mayoral consultation will identify the current direct vision rating of every HGV. The Mayor must stick to his commitment ensure that “the most dangerous zero star-rated lorries are removed from our roads completely by 2020.”