Friday, January 31, 2014

Freight and Road Haulage Interests Unhappy with New HGV Regulations

Construction Traffic Targeted After High Percentage of Cyclist Deaths
Shipping News Feature

UK – The new ‘Safer Lorry Scheme - The Way Forward’ which was announced by Transport for London (TfL) and the London Boroughs yesterday, has been met with an air of dismay by road haulage interests such as the Freight Transport Association (FTA). At the next meeting in March of the London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee (TEC) on which all 32 boroughs, the Corporation of London, and TfL sit, there will be a motion to extend the proposed TfL Traffic Regulation Order to ban HGV’s without cyclist safety equipment on its own roads, to cover all London roads.

The new TfL order already accounts for 45% of the city’s highways and will mean all trucks exceeding 3.5 tonnes will need to be equipped with approved side guards and suitable mirrors to protect cyclists or face ‘hefty fines’. Closed circuit cameras as used to enforce congestion charging will police the scheme along with on street checks. The FTA had no hesitation in criticising the scheme saying the best way forward on HGV’s and cyclist safety is a more targeted approach than the kind of blanket regulations outlined in the proposed TfL scheme. Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of Urban Logistics Policy commented:

“These proposals will affect anything larger than a transit van and are not targeted, as we believe they should be, at construction traffic. Many large vans and small HGVs would in fact fall foul of other legislation if they fitted additional mirrors as their cabs are too low and pedestrians and cyclists would be at risk of being struck by these low mirrors. This is the danger with politicians developing new standards without working with the industry. Safety on the roads is a complex issue and politicians often reach for the simplistic solution.

“This is not a cost free option, as it will cause many London businesses to incur more costs on a daily basis. There is no guarantee that these costs won’t increase in the future, and how politicians might decide to change or extend these powers at a later date. The FTA considers that one of the best uses of TfL’s time and money would be to maintain a higher level of enforcement against poor quality HGV operators and we will recommend that approach to them in our response. There is no one solution to the issue of cyclist safety. Unless everyone involved takes intelligent action the problem will not improve as much as we all want.”

In 2011 there were sixteen cyclist fatalities, fourteen in both 2012 and 2013 with HGV’s involved in roughly 60% of these. Most of those involved construction traffic and most also involved a vehicle turning left. Commercial vehicle drivers point out that TfL’s own guidelines expressly indicate that cyclists should not ‘undertake’ large vehicles for this very reason. The new powers to prosecute drivers not carrying the new mandatory equipment and covering all London roads are expected to be put in place as early as September.

In fact the impact on the freight sector is unlikely to be particularly burdensome, under national legislation many HGV’s must already be fitted with this equipment. However, construction lorries, tipper trucks, waste vehicles, cement mixers and certain other forms of HGV are exempt from these and other safety requirements. The rising number of such vehicles in London’s building boom is an acknowledged hazard to the growing number of cyclists, who now make up almost a quarter of all rush hour traffic in the centre of the city. Introducing the scheme London’s Transport Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy CBE said:

“London has long led the way in working with the freight industry to drive up standards, especially in terms of greater road safety, better driver training and reduced vehicle emissions. TfL will work with the London boroughs to deliver this proposed Safer Lorry Scheme and further demonstrate our commitment to safer roads for all.”

Ironically it was the horrific spate of fatalities in the capital at the end of 2013, six in November alone, which pushed the subject of cyclist safety firmly back in the public eye and set the politicians in motion. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, commented yesterday:

“In my Cycling Vision, I said that no lorry should be allowed in London unless it is fitted with equipment to protect cyclists. Neither I nor the boroughs have the power to ban lorries without safety equipment on our own. It was for that reason that I proposed to use a power I do have, to levy a hefty charge on lorries without such equipment. But I am pleased to say that after negotiations with London Councils, we can now combine our powers to propose a simple and comprehensive ban.”