Transport News Brief recently reported that allowing regional authorities and city councils in the UK to establish their own rules on the design of goods vehicles could bring confusion and logistics problems, if vehicles that are accepted in one location are barred from another because they fail to meet local criteria. That is the fear of Christopher Snelling, Head of Urban Logistics Policy at the Freight Transport Association.
“We’ve already seen the start of this with the London Safer Lorries Scheme, which sets a precedent,” he says. “If London can implement such a programme then there is nothing to stop other cities across Britain following suit, each with different and potentially conflicting requirements.
“It hasn’t happened yet but that’s not to say it won’t,” says SMMT’s Commercial Vehicle Manager, Nigel Base. “We’re concerned and it’s an issue we’ve raised during talks with government and at a European level through ACEA, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.”
Set to be implemented this summer in the wake of a consultation exercise held by Transport for London (TfL) and London’s councils, the Safer Lorries Scheme will ban trucks from the capital that are not fitted with ancillary safety equipment designed to protect cyclists and pedestrians.
The package includes mirrors intended to give drivers a better view of vulnerable road users, plus side guards designed to help protect cyclists in the event of a collision. It will apply to all goods vehicles grossing at above 3.5 tonnes entering the London Low Emission Zone.
All contractors delivering to TfL sites are already expected to adopt these measures among others, including either having an onboard CCTV camera installed or a Fresnel lens if this is a viable alternative. Fitted to the window on the cab’s passenger door, it enables the driver to see whatever is in the truck’s nearside blind spot.
The concerns are shared by DAF UK Managing Director Ray Ashworth.
While appreciating the need to protect pedestrians and cyclists, he, too, is concerned that authorities may be tempted to impose different requirements. He argues that the details of truck design are best left to vehicle manufacturers. “Give us the problem and let us solve it instead,” he says.
That is not to imply that legislators should not have a role to play. “However, decisions should be made at a European rather than a purely local level,” says Snelling.
Such decisions are already being taken, with the European Commission announcing in December that changes to the Weights and Dimensions Directive 96/53/EC will be implemented from 2022 onwards; five years later than the original target date of 2017.
It will allow manufacturers to extend the noses of truck cabs thereby cutting drag, create a crumple zone which can also be used to accommodate a waste-heat recovery system to save energy, and give the driver more room.
The direction in which TfL would like to see truck design go is illustrated by another project; the Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety (CLOCS) programme. Involving some of the country’s leading construction companies as well as TfL, among its aims is ensuring that drivers of tippers can see cyclists and pedestrians more easily.
Measures being trialled include the use of a window in the lower half of a tipper’s nearside cab door so the driver can spot cyclists edging up on the truck’s inside. A more radical approach is to improve vision by lowering the truck’s overall height through the use of a refuse collection vehicle chassis such as a Mercedes-Benz Econic, rather than a conventional tipper chassis.
The Econic’s low-height cab has a glazed, full-height passenger door which aids vision. Both solutions have been trialled by Select Logistics, a subsidiary of construction group Laing O’Rourke.
Changes to 96/53/EC will, however, result in a lower driving position for all new trucks.
Truck manufacturers have for some time been addressing the needs of vulnerable road users, says ACEA, with the incorporation of lane departure warning devices and other safety systems into existing truck designs. Operators are playing their part, too.
Last year’s launch of TfL’s Safer Lorries consultation saw retail giant Sainsbury’s unveil a cyclist-friendly urban delivery truck complete with cameras that enable the driver to see all around the vehicle, proximity sensors and extra lighting among other measures. Based on a Mercedes chassis, it is equipped with a refrigerated body built by Solomon.
Snelling points out that the FTA’s Shared Vision document published in 2014 highlights examples of the work logistics companies are doing to improve the safety of vulnerable road users, including taking part in community education initiatives with cyclists and in schools.
“Our members are investing their money, staff and vehicle time in taking actions that they believe will improve the safety of everyone on the roads,” he observes. “And in doing so they’re going above and beyond what anyone is requiring of them through regulation.”