Slater and Gordon Lawyers have written a number of blogs on how Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) are over-represented in fatal accidents involving collisions with cyclists and pedestrians.
Although the number of collisions between cyclists and HGVs decreased in 2014, Transport for London (TfL) has committed to a six-point road safety plan aimed at reducing the number of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists killed or seriously wounded in the capital by 40% over the next five years.
More than 34 London cyclists have been killed in collisions with lorries since 2011 and out of the eight fatal cycling accidents to have occurred on the capital’s roads so far this year, seven involved collisions with HGVs.
Background to the Safer Lorry Scheme
After HGVs were involved in nine out of the 14 fatal cycling accidents in London in 2013, London Mayor, Boris Johnson requested a feasibility study to be conducted to consider the various ways lorry safety could be improved in London.
Based on its recommendations, TfL and London Councils held a six-week consultation over summer 2014 into their plans to introduce the “Safer Lorry Scheme.”
Following a review of all the feedback they were provided with, TfL produced a consultation report which set out the findings of the consultation in full. 90% of respondents supported the plans.
TfL along with London Councils and Heathrow Airport decided to progress the proposal and a statutory consultation on the Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) required for the scheme was held in November 2014.
After the installation of 600 warning signs and a nationwide campaign of engagement to ensure operators and drivers are aware of the requirements for adopting safety equipment, enforcement of the UK’s first Safer Lorry Scheme begins today.
Commenting on the scheme, the Mayor said, “Improving the safety of London's roads is a top priority. We know that a large number of cyclist deaths and serious injuries involve a relatively small number of trucks and lorries that are not fitted with basic safety equipment. Such vehicles are not welcome in the capital and the Safer Lorry scheme will see them effectively banned from our streets. The lives of thousands of cyclists and pedestrians will be much safer as a result and I urge all operators of HGVs to get on board and make it a success.”
How the Scheme Works
Under the Safer Lorry scheme, all vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes not fitted with sideguards and Class V and Class VI mirrors will be banned from London’s streets. Any vehicles that are currently exempt from national legislation will now need to be compliant, including construction vehicles such as tipper trucks and skip lorries which are involved in a disproportionate number of fatal cycling accidents.
The scheme will operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week, and will cover the same area as the Low Emission Zone.
It will be enforced by the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police, and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency in conjunction with the joint TfL and Department for Transport-funded Industrial HGV Taskforce (IHTF) which will target non-compliant HGV operators and drivers.
Drivers found to be in charge of non-compliant vehicles can be issued with a £50 Fixed Penalty Notice. The maximum fine for each breach of the ban will be £1,000. Companies operating vehicles in breach of the scheme will be referred to the Traffic Commissioner who has the power to modify or suspend HGV operator licenses.
Sideguards and Mirrors
So-called HGV safety technologies such as Class V and Class VI mirrors are designed to improve the drivers’ field of view by reducing blind spots. Class V close proximity/kerb mirrors give the driver a close-up view of the lorry side profile, helping to reduce the left-hand blind spot. Class VI front blind spot mirrors are fitted to the front of large vehicles to eliminate the front blind spot and provide a wide angle of vision immediately in front of the vehicle.
HGV blind spots are responsible for a number of collision scenarios that include:
- HGVs turning left and colliding with cyclists or pedestrians after failing to see them on their nearside;
- HGVS pulling away at junctions and colliding with cyclists or pedestrians that the driver fails to see crossing the road directly in front of the vehicle
- HGVs colliding with cyclists, motorcyclists or even other vehicles when approaching junctions, particularly roundabouts due to blind spots caused by mirror clusters or A-pillars
- Left-hand-drive HGVs colliding with vehicles when changing lane to the right on dual carriageways and motorways due to passenger door blind spots.
Sideguards or ‘under run protection’ are lightweight rails or panels fitted between the front and rear axles of vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes. They have been a legal requirement in the UK on certain HGVs since the 1980s. But from today, all vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes in London must be fitted with sideguards to prevent cyclists from being dragged under the rear wheels in the event of a collision.
The dangers that HGVs pose to cyclists, particularly at junctions and when turning left are well known and Slater and Gordon Lawyers very much welcome any initiative that is designed to afford greater protection for vulnerable road users and reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries caused as a result of collisions between cyclists and HGVs.
Oliver Jeffcott is an Associate Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London. Oliver is a keen cyclist who has written extensively on cycling and road safety for numerous national publications.
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