Safer Urban Driving - lorry drivers are getting on-bike experience to improve safety

As part of its partnership work with TfL and the Construction Logistics and Community Safety community LCC is looking at some of the innovative approaches to reducing road danger and improving safety implemented by CLOCS members

Every CLOCS champion is committed to having drivers complete the Safer Urban Driving (SUD) training module – a training scheme that includes actual on-road experience of riding a bike. 

TJ Hammond is a freight company based in Billericay that supplies services to a range of projects including more unusual ones like events. It has 18 drivers  and they have all completed an SUD course. The company says its aim is to have no collisions so they  are pleased to provide drivers with the training they need, as well as  vehicles equipped with a full range of safety features (including cameras, passenger side lower windows and audible left turn warnings)  to ensure safer journeys. At a time when there is a significant shortage of lorry drivers in the UK, Hammond’s says applications to work for the company are fiercely competitive. 

We joined three TJ Hammond drivers at the Barking HQ of Fleetsource which provides the SUD training.

Safer Urban Driving 

The Safer Urban Driving module is one of the options for the government required 35 hours of driver training every 5 years. More than 25,000 drivers, mostly London based, have completed SUD. 

At Fleetsource the theory training was provided by an ex-lorry driver and ex-transport manager who described how one of his drivers had been involved in a fatal collision. It was a tragedy for the family of the victim and also had a lasting impact on the driver. No one wants collisions to happen, and the trainer was determined to ensure that no one, neither drivers nor vulnerable road users, would experience a crash that can change lives.

The practical training was provided by two experienced cycle instructors, one of whom had worked as a cycle courier. Their emphasis was on explaining and showing the thinking behind safe urban cycling: explaining the rider’s strategy which could be hard to understand for a non-cyclist.  

Before we started, all driver licenses were checked and their names entered for the Certificate of Professional Competence accreditation.

The practical part

Trainers explained that what most cyclists seek to do is to be seen, and to minimise the chance of conflict or a collision. So when a cyclist, for example, is riding a metre away from parked car in the centre of a lane it’s not to irritate the driver behind but to avoid a collision with a door that could throw them in front of the lorry behind. Instead of getting irate, we were advised, drivers need to recognise that the rider is helping reduce the risk to all parties. 

Giving a rider a wide berth when passing was important. The drivers, notably the more experienced TJ Hammond group, observed that because lorries were much longer than cars the overtaking ‘moment’ was that much longer and issues such as cross wind and road surface had to be considered. 

There was some discussion of the lorry that has to move into the right lane to turn left to accommodate the trailer: a move that can mislead an unwary  cyclist into thinking that it is safe to cycle straight ahead.

After a short discussion drivers were taken into the yard for a short assessment of their cycling skills (all passed without a hitch) and then we pedalled onto the roads of Barking. Theory turned into practice as drivers had to make the same decisions that cyclists do on a daily basis: how to enter the stream of traffic; when to move out from parked cars; how to safely make a right turn; how to negotiate a U-turn. 

It was an exercise that the drivers said enabled them to understand the movements of a cyclist and the vulnerability on two wheels. 

The theory part


In the theory class we heard about the statistics on lorry involvement in crashes – in some years HGVs are involved in more than 50% of cycling road deaths and 20% of pedestrian deaths. The total number may have fallen but HGVs, which account for 4% of vehicle miles in London, are still significantly over-represented in fatalities. 

Some of the reasons behind the Mayor’s need to increase cycling levels were discussed: as the capital’s population grows from 8.5 million to 10m we have to keep people moving and more cars on the road would only increase congestion. More cycling also helped reduce NHS costs by keeping people healthier and not contributing to pollution.  

The role of the driver, we heard, was about more than just getting from A to B. They had to represent the company, deal with customer relations, plan routes, administer specific jobs and handle security. They needed support at key locations – large loads might need three marshals to allow a lorry to back up on a complex turn.

The changing streetscape was discussed: more pedestrians, cyclists, vans. Drivers were shown some of the new cycle infrastructure in London – the ‘hold the left’ turn arrangement for example which separates cycle movements at a junction from motor vehicles or the low level lights for cyclists and two-stage turns. 

The consequences of not getting it right was also a key topic. Operators could bear the responsibility if a vehicle was not properly checked and such failure led to a collision. 

Drivers attending the course considered it a positive experience. They said they’d learned about cycling strategies: "it helps you understand what the cyclist is thinking and why they might be in the centre of the lane ahead of a junction."  Among the drivers the TJ Hammond group clearly  had a certain pride in their employer’s safety consciousness and use of high quality vehicles with a full range of collision avoidance equipment.   They also use an ap to ensure a full set of vehicle checks are made.