Lorries without safety equipment "effectively banned" from September

Lorry in Stamford Hill

As of the start of September, lorries over 3.5 tonnes must be fitted with side guards and mirrors when the Safer Lorry Scheme comes into force in the capital. The announcement, made by Transport for London and the Mayor's Office, follows a public consultation that found 90% of respondents in favour of the scheme.

The added mirrors will decrease the chances of collisions between HGVs and vulnerable road users from occurring, minimising the driver’s blind spot where cyclists often wait at junctions. In the event of a collision, the side guards will provide valuable protection for cyclists and pedestrians alike, as they increase the chances of victims being pushed away from, rather than under, the vehicle’s wheels.

The maximum fine for a single violation is £1000, with up to three breaches possible per vehicle. Operators responsible for violations could also experience difficulties with their licensing, as breaches will also be referred to the relevant Traffic Commissioner.

The Scheme represents a significant move in targeting lorries, which are disproportionately involved in seriously injuring or killing London’s cyclists. From 2008 to 2012, vehicles over 3.5 tonnes were involved with 53% of London’s cycling fatalities, despite representing just 4% of road miles travelled.

London Cycling Campaign has been consistently campaigning against lorry danger and welcomes the move as a first step towards safer lorries, but we believe avoidable risks still remain. Under the new regulations lorries like the 32 ton lorry that ran over and killed a 30 year old woman in Stamford Hill in January 2015 (pictured above) would have to be upgraded, but in this instance we do not yet know if these additional features would have made a difference. The fundamental issue with lorries and construction vehicles on London’s streets is that they are poorly designed for urban areas. Current designs put the driver up in the air too far away from people on the street, with chassis too high from the ground and cabins with inadequate window coverage, limiting the driver’s ability to see their immediate surroundings.

We've previously published designs for Safer Urban Lorries that provide lower seating positions and larger windows which are similar to those used by modern refuse lorries that are primarily designed to reduce the risk of hitting refuse operatives. The low cabin also encourages more cautious driving. Some manufacturers are working on plans to create these "direct vison" drivers' cabs.

Direct Vision cab

The TfL’s six point road safety plan has set a target of achieving a 40% cut in deaths and serious injuries on London’s roads by 2020. Whilst the Safer Lorry Scheme is a welcome step in the right direction, more will need to be done to achieve this target given that 80% of victims in serious or fatal collisions are cyclists, pedestrians or motorcyclists.

For existing HGVs, there are more safety features established by the recently introduced CLOCS Standards which are not covered by the Safer Lorry Scheme. The most significant feature not included in the Scheme is vehicle manoeuvring warnings which sound to alert other road users, particularly important for when the vehicle is turning left. Clear warning signage for cyclists to stay away would also be welcomed.

Drivers of vehicles over 3.5 tonnes should also be provided with more rigorous training. ‘Safer Urban Driving’ courses which include cycle training should be mandatory, with drivers taught to expect cyclists at every junction.

In addition, it's very clear that our streets need to be urgently redesigned to reduce the risk of collision, particularly at junctions. 

Once a more holistic approach is adopted, then the target of a 40% reduction in vulnerable road user fatalities and serious casualties by 2020 will have a high chance of being surpassed and the harrowing statistics of cyclists and other vulnerable road users being killed by HGVs will significantly reduce.