Check out the truck cab door in the photo below. Spot anything different?
In September 2016, mayor of London Sadiq Khan launched the world’s first Direct Vision Standard (DVS) for HGVs. It was created to improve the safety of all road users, particularly the ‘vulnerable’, i.e. pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
- Over the past three years, HGVs were involved in 20% of pedestrian fatalities and over 70% of cyclist fatalities, despite only making up 4% of road miles in London
Using a star system, the DVS rates HGVs from 0 (lowest) to 5 (highest), based on how much a HGV driver can see directly through their cab windows, as opposed to indirectly through cameras or mirrors.
City Hall is still finalising the qualification levels for the DVS, alongside the schedule for its implementation. In parallel, Transport for London (TfL) is running a three-phase consultation (January 2017 into 2018) on the requirements of the plan.
Scania (Great Britain) told Passion4Transport (P4T) this increase in safety awareness has taken off over the past three to four years, “gaining real impetus largely due to the potentially lethal cocktail of more cyclists on the roads in big cities, like London, and traffic congestion.”
- Cycling in London has grown significantly over the past 15 years. There are now more than 670,000 bike trips a day in London; an increase of over 130 per cent since 2000 (source: Strategic Cycling Analysis, TfL, June 2017)
‘More than just a piece of glass’
New truck features such as strategic mirrors, 180- and 260-degree cameras, panels, signage, and sophisticated lighting are all part of this push for safety. Another involves retroftting an extra cab window to give drivers greater vision down low on the left hand side of the truck, where cyclists and pedestrians often appear.
“When cyclist fatalities come to court, truck drivers tend not to be prosecuted because they weren’t doing anything wrong,” says Lee Allen (below right), director at manufacturer Truck Align London, the company behind the “simple yet effective” truck door windows illustrating this post.
“We started working on this product back in November 2014 after a long-standing Customer, the Erith Group, asked us to do them,” Mr Allen told P4T at Freight in the City in November 2017. “There were already others on the market; we first wanted to purchase then install them for clients, acting as an agent. But it didn’t work out. So we took matters into our own hands and equipped four vehicles ourselves for Erith in 2014/15. Today we are fitting our windows to 24 vehicles a week.”
One advantage of the “quick and easy to install” Truck Align product, he says is the short downtime, with a fitter capable of putting in approximately three door window sets a day. This timeframe is crucial for hauliers, who need to keep their wheels on the move as much as possible if they are to stay in business.
“Also, at under £1,000 a window, the price is extremely competitive; a crucial factor for potential clients because standards are changing all the time.”
Scania Great Britain, which has been putting these windows in its trucks for the past two years, considers them “a significant development. Real added value. Plus our drivers do appreciate having them.”
The company sets great store by avoiding making life too complicated for truckers. “It’s important not to clutter and distract them with too much ‘going on’ in the cab. This new door window is simple and effective. When all’s said and done, drivers have to keep their eyes on the road.”
Eyes on the road
The DVS is intended to help address HGV blind spots. And the thinking is that once it’s implemented in London, other major U.K. cities like Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester will follow suit.
Does this push herald the end of the road for juggernaut-style vehicles, no longer in tune with today’s busy street environments? Under the proposed star rating, the most dangerous, ‘zero star’ HGVs will be banned or restricted from London’s roads by 2020, and only those with three stars or above allowed from 2024.
At the same time, Mr Allen suggests another step in the right direction would be to educate vulnerable road users about the dangers of HGVs. “An exercise like getting people to try and lift a single tyre, which can weigh a quarter of a tonne, would really drive home the message,” he told P4T.
“Yes, trucks can brake quickly, but not that quickly. There are misconceptions about safety in part because the presence of mirrors and cameras gives a false sense of security.”
Photo of cyclists: All rights reserved TfL
Eye photo: Flickr poolski