Recently, Transport for London (TfL) has launched a consultation aimed at tightening up the direct vision requirements for HGVs. The proposed scheme would mandate HGV drivers to have an unobstructed view of the area directly in front of the vehicle, which would help mitigate the risk of collisions involving vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.
Announcing the consultation TfL said: “Moving to a new Progressive Safe System is vital to TfL’s and the Mayor’s continued efforts to meet the Vision Zero goal of eliminating all deaths and serious injuries from London’s transport network by 2041.
“TfL estimates that these new safety requirements will be applied to around 165,000 vehicles, which is 90% of the existing fleet operating in London.”
Direct Vision and Its Importance
Direct vision refers to a driver’s ability to see the road and surrounding environment without any obstructions. Direct vision is particularly important in heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), as their large size and weight can cause severe harm in the event of an accident. With direct vision, drivers can see vulnerable road users and react accordingly, reducing the risk of accidents.
Currently, the direct vision standards for HGVs in the UK are minimal, with most vehicles equipped with mirrors that provide only a limited view of the surrounding environment. As a result, there have been numerous accidents involving HGVs and vulnerable road users, with tragic consequences.
The Proposed Changes by TfL
TfL’s consultation proposes a significant upgrade to the direct vision standards for HGVs. The scheme would require all HGVs over 12 tonnes to meet a minimum standard of direct vision. The new standard would be based on a five-star rating system, with five stars being the highest level of direct vision.
To achieve the maximum rating of five stars, vehicles would need to meet a set of requirements, such as having large windows, low-positioned cab seating, and minimal blind spots. HGVs that do not meet the minimum standard would be restricted from driving on London roads.
- Updating existing guidance on the use of mirrors and mirror-replacement Camera Monitoring Systems (CMS)
- The requirement for CMS fitted on vehicles to eliminate any remaining blind spots on the passenger side
- Sensors ensuring full coverage down the passenger side of all vehicles to detect vulnerable road users. They must not activate in relation to roadside furniture or stationary vehicles
- Moving Off Information Systems (MOIS) fitted to the front of a vehicle to prevent collisions at the frontal blind spot zone when a vehicle moves off from rest
- Audio warnings fitted to all vehicles, including those with left hand drive to ensure all vehicles operating in London have the ability to warn of an intended manoeuvre
The consultation is open until 3 April 2023 with the feedback helping to inform and finalise the development of the Progressive Safe System requirements.
The Benefits of Enhanced Direct Vision Standards
By implementing the proposed direct vision standards, TfL aims to reduce the number of collisions involving HGVs and vulnerable road users. Improved direct vision would enable drivers to see vulnerable road users in their vicinity, reducing the risk of accidents.
Moreover, the proposed scheme would encourage manufacturers to design safer vehicles with enhanced direct vision features, creating a safer environment for all road users. The proposed changes would also help reduce emissions, as HGVs with lower cabs and better direct vision would be more aerodynamic, leading to improved fuel efficiency.
Chris Yarsley, Logistics UK’s Senior Policy Manager – Road Freight Regulation, comments: “The consultation document currently provided by TfL states that the specification for various safety features, including sensors, will be made available once the period for responses closes. This detail is vital as operators cannot provide a full response without clarity on what additional features will be required. Industry wants to fully engage however, this requires full understanding and detail that currently, the consultation does not provide.”
Logistics UK is encouraged by the guidance that further safety features should be retrofittable to existing vehicles and not be cost prohibitive. Operators willingly engaged with the initial standards, incurring multiple costs to upgrading existing fleets. Mr Yarsley continues: “It is now important that these upgrades, which were made in good faith, are not fully superseded. Operators are facing increased costs due to rises to inflation, net zero transition costs and increased fuel prices. The logistics industry operates on tight profit margins and, like other sectors of the economy, is facing increased financial strain. Logistics UK is urging TfL to consider not just the cost of purchasing, but also the potential costs of the vehicle(s) being out of service while fitting new systems. Logistics UK is also calling for TfL to consider the national shortfall of available technicians needed to make these upgrades, when considering timeframes for implementing the increased safety standard.”
“Industry fully supports the need to increase road safety and wants to work together with TfL to achieve this; it is vital we get this right. The consultation announced today is a welcome step towards this, however further clarity is needed to ensure this next phase in increasing the safety standard is practicable and effective.”