Does the UK need a nationwide safer lorry standard? Part 1

cycling in London

The government has been urged to create a national definition for a ‘safe lorry’ to avoid multiple compliance standards being enforced across different cities.

It has also been asked to extend to councils the power to apply their own lorry bans according to local requirements, with any exempt vehicles from such schemes expected to meet the national safe lorry standard.

The proposals were put forward by Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director at national cycling charity CTC, during an evidence session at the Transport Committee’s Road Traffic Law Enforcement Inquiry earlier this month.

Cross-party committee members have been gathering evidence on the effectiveness of roadside enforcement, such as: resourcing issues; use of technology; devolution of enforcement powers to local authorities; protection of vulnerable road users; and ability to enforce against foreign drivers committing traffic offences.

Geffen’s comments came during questioning from the committee on whether the time had now come to roll out a rush-hour HGV ban in the capital, which the London Assembly has voted in favour of implementing.

While he believed such a scheme would be beneficial in London, he didn’t think the approach would work as a national policy because it would depend on local HGV movements and urban infrastructure.

“We are not looking for a blanket, peak hour ban; we are looking for laws that would allow local authorities to define a lorry-restricted area and would allow for local circumstances as to what the exemptions might be within that area,” said Geffen.

“The role of national government would be to step in and say that any lorries that are exempted from this purpose must meet safe design standards. Local government should reflect localism and where lorries need to go to. National government should define what a safe lorry is.”

He said that the last thing hauliers need is one set of rules for a safe lorry in Birmingham, for example, and another in London, adding that he would be arguing this point to HS2, which wants different rules from TfL. “This is clearly nonsensical.”

Geffen suggested following the Clocs principles would be a good standard to adopt nationally for all construction projects.

Cyclist safety

London Councils, which runs the London Lorry Control Scheme, said the rules of the Safer Lorry Scheme (SLS), in place in the capital since 1 September, could have “an impact nationally”.

It said this would be particularly effective if whole vehicle type approval, which since October 2014 has removed the majority of exemptions in regards to sideguards on new HGVs, was updated to include extended-view mirrors.

It supported EU plans looking at increasing direct vision through better vehicle design, which it said would remove some of the requirements in the SLS and bring significant safety benefits. “The UK should be at the forefront of any proposed cab design revision, which – if approved – should form part of a revised Construction and Use Regulations,” its evidence stated.

“There are also arguments that the burden of such safety requirements falls on the haulage industry, when cyclists can use the road network with no formal training,” London Councils said, backing some form of road-sense training for cyclists.

The FTA acknowledged the challenges of cyclist safety around HGVs in London, where more than half of fatalities involve a lorry compared with about 20% in the rest of the country, and welcomed the strong enforcement strategy in place in the capital.

It urged the government to take the lead on ensuring that national enforcement is similarly targeted at areas where the “consequences of HGV non-compliance would be felt”, as well as playing a stronger role in ensuring cyclists comply with the law.

When asked about its view on devolving more enforcement powers to local government, the FTA believed it could act as a positive when enabling local problems to be tackled, but that this would depend on funding and expertise available at council level.