Lorries with fewer blind spots start to multiply


Dennis Eagle Elite tractor unit 

Lorries with far fewer blind spots start to multiply

The gold safety standard for urban construction vehicles is the lorry with minimal  spots – rated five stars according to Transport for London’s Direct Vision standard. Such trucks will be automatically approved for use in London when new safety restrictions on HGVs come into force in 2020.  

Mercedes and Dennis-Eagle were first off the mark when they re-purposed their low-entry, five star direct vision cabs, previously used for refuse and airport work, for construction use.

Now other manufacturers are entering the market with offerings of their own, while Mercedes and Dennis-Eagle are trying to up their game.

Come 2026 all new lorry types on European roads will have to have highly rated  direct vision because of forthcoming new European Union regulations.

We’ve taken at look at the latest that the market has to offer ahead of the Freight in the City expo on November 6th .

Scania L series tractor unit

Scania L series

“…what we have here is an incredibly competent and safe truck, built to make an urban truck driver’s life easier and safer” – high words of praise for Scania’s new L series from a Motor Transport reviewer.

The new Scania lorry range has a nine litre engine, choice of gearboxes, three roof heights and a ‘kneeling’  position that makes getting in and out a breeze. You can also walk through the cab which means the driver does not have to risk opening the driver door and getting out into traffic.

Motor Transport magazine was enthusiastic about the improved vision from the L series: “We were already big fans of Scania’s next generation driving position, which moves the driver forwards and outwards , and when you are sitting this low the visibility is really superb.” They also concluded that the L series was as comfortable on the open road as it is in urban traffic. “The lack of engine noise is surprising considering there are five cylinders working away in the cab just behind us. It feels more like a luxury coach than an HGV to drive.”

 Dennis Eagle Elite electric RCV

Dennis Eagle,  Elite tractor unit and eCollect refuse vehicle

Not content with pioneering the low entry cab in the refuse sector Dennis Eagle introduced the Elite tipper and skip/loader models back in 2016  and followed that up with a five star direct vision tractor unit ( the cab section of an artic truck). 

Dennis Eagle Elite artic

The attraction of a five star direct vision tractor unit is that it can complete the urban section of a much longer lorry journey with less stress for the driver and less road danger for vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians. Freight company Explore Transport is already using such a cab on its deliveries into the central London after making a switch of tractor units in Dagenham.

The eCollect refuse collection vehicle (RCV) is based on Dennis-Eagle’s well established, five star direct vision, Elite cab but with a 200 kW electric engine instead of the conventional diesel unit. The attraction is obvious – the much quieter electric engine (and electric bin lifts) means early hours working may be more acceptable. RCV’s usually carry out very short journeys from base making the currently limited range of electric batteries a realistic proposition even for the heavy loads carried.

Volvo FE LEC Electric

Volvo FE LEC Electric

Volvo launched a low entry cab version of its FE truck back in 2011 and displayed a tipper version in 2016. The aim of the cab is to improve comfort and safety for the users and improve visibility out of the vehicle.

The latest from Volvo is the FE Electric which addresses not only the issue of good driver vision but also exhaust emissions by equipping a waste collection vehicle with a 260         kW electric motor. According to Volvo, the vehicle can travel up to 200 km on one charge of the Lithium-ion battery which should last a full shift of waste collection.

Volvo estimates that charging time of the 200–300 kWh battery will be one and a half hours on fast charge or 10 hours on low power.


Mercedes Econic 

Mercedes Econic

Mercedes were the first company to adapt a low entry vehicle for construction use in urban areas and a significant proportion of five star direct vision vehicles used in London for construction are Econics. Cyclists in London have got used to easily exchanging glances with drivers of Tarmac, Cemex, Laing and Riney low-entry trucks (as recommended by the freight industry)  to ensure they have been seen.

The Econic range now includes cement mixers, tippers and a tractor unit.

Construction firm Tarmac is running 18 Econic cement mixers in London already and is expected to increase that to 20.  According to MHW magazine the vehicles are powered by 7.7-litre six-cylinder engines producing 260 kW (354 hp) and use six-speed Allison automatic gearboxes. The axle and drive configuration enables them to have an “impressively tight turning circle and makes it significantly more manoeuvrable than a standard 32-tonne construction eight-wheeler,” another advantage in the capital’s narrow streets.

Foodservice provider Brakes Group has recently put a Mercedes Econic into operation in London that runs on Shell’s Gas to Diesel (GTL) fuel which emits less NOx and particulates than ordinary diesel. The fuel can be blended with ordinary diesel so no modifications to the engine are required. The company told Motor Transport “The initial feedback from our drivers is that visibility appears much better, and it’s easier to access.”