Transport for London (TfL) says it has delivered a radical improvement to road safety in the UK’s capital that will save lives and serious injuries, with the introduction of the pioneering Direct Vision Standard (DVS).
The vital lorry safety scheme is now operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is enforced on all roads in London, with standards set to tighten further in 2024.
More than 30,000 HGVs have been made safer thanks to TfL’s Direct Vision Standard scheme, which reduces lethal blind spots by introducing a free permit system that assigns vehicles a star rating based on how much the driver can see directly through their cab window.
All owners of HGVs over 12 tonnes now need a valid permit to operate in London. Those without a permit face a new penalty charge notice (PCN) of up to £550. To date, more than 90,000 permits have been issued, including more than 3,000 to 5-star vehicles which provide the highest levels of direct vision. TfL data shows that around 150,000 HGVs enter London every year.
Introduced with the support of London Councils, the Direct Vision Standard forms part of the Mayor of London’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate all death and serious injuries from London’s streets by 2041.
HGVs continue to be disproportionately deadly. While big lorries accounted for just three per cent of the overall miles driven in London 2018-20, they were involved in nearly half (41 per cent) of fatal collisions involving people cycling and 19 per cent involving people walking.
This means that HGVs are five times more likely to be involved in a collision resulting in a fatality, relative to their share of traffic. Provisional data shows that in the first two months of 2021 alone, three people walking and cycling in London have already been killed by HGVs.
Developed through extensive engagement with lorry manufacturers and the freight industry, TfL’s Direct Vision Standard measures the driver’s direct field of vision from their cab and rates it from 0 to 5 stars, depending on how much they can see.
HGVs rated 1 to 5 stars received their free safety permit automatically. The operators of lorries rated 0 star – around half of HGVs operating in London – are required to fit safe systems including; cameras covering blind spots linked to a video display in the cab, an audible warning when turning left, motion sensors covering the sides of the lorry at low speeds, and a prominent warning on the back of their vehicle.
As a result, TfL says more than 30,000 dangerous zero-rated HGVs have now had safe systems fitted, improving protection for vulnerable road users and saving lives. More than 60,000 HGVs rated 1 to 5 stars received their safety permit automatically and this includes more than 3,000 5-star vehicles.
According to TfL, several freight operators including SUEZ Recycling and Recovery and FM Conway and major projects such as Tideway have led the way in introducing 5-star vehicles to London, which provide high levels of direct vision and are the most effective at reducing tragic road deaths and serious injuries.
The DVS and Safety Permit scheme is progressive and the standards will tighten in October 2024 when the minimum DVS star rating will be three stars and above. All HGVs below three stars will need to feature a progressive safe system which takes into account any additional technology or safety equipment not currently available.
Meanwhile, a tighter Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standard has also come into force to coincide with the DVS. Heavy vehicles including lorries, buses, coaches and specialist vehicles now need to meet Euro VI (NOx and PM) emissions standards or pay a daily charge to drive within the Greater London area. Compliance with the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards has continued to grow throughout 2020 despite the pandemic, showing that schemes such as ULEZ and LEZ are effective in achieving significant air quality reductions.