The Direct Vision Standard (DVS) is the flagship initiative of the Mayor of London’s strategy to achieve zero vehicular harm in the capital by 2041. The aim of the scheme is to improve safety on London’s roads by eliminating the blind spots on HGVs. But while FTA and its members fully support the Mayor’s zero vehicular harm ambition – the logistics industry takes road safety extremely seriously – the association, one of the UK’s top business bodies which represents the interests of the logistics sector, believes that DVS is not the most effective method to keep our roads safe. Natalie Chapman, FTA’s Head of South of England and Urban Policy, has provided three solutions that would provide a more comprehensive approach to road safety.
In this article, the role of advances in technology will be explained. The other two solutions will be explored in issue 9 of Transport Britain.
THE DIRECT VISION STANDARD
Under the DVS, every truck over 12 tonnes will be required to have a permit to access the capital from October 2020. Transport for London (TfL) will assess the direct vision lines from each HGV against a five-star rating system. Those which meet the one-star rating will be automatically eligible for a permit; those which are zero-star rated will need to prove that they meet the requirements of a new safe system in order to obtain a permit. From 2024, only HGVs rated three-star and above will be given a permit; any vehicle rated below three stars will need to demonstrate compliance against a progressive safe system – the details of which are yet to be determined. However, FTA is opposed in principle to vehicle design being set at a local level. This as a minimum is the role of national government and should ideally be set by UN or European level bodies. The creation of a Direct Vision Standard will create a niche market for the manufacturers which will increase prices of trucks in London.
ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY
While increasing direct vision may have a role to play in road safety, FTA has always believed that technological innovation is the only fail-safe method to deliver the Mayor’s vision for an end to deaths and serious injuries on the capital’s roads by 2041. New vehicle design standards and autonomous safety features which reduce human error will be the most effective way of doing this and as technology advances, these systems will be become even more sophisticated; it is highly likely that by the time of the proposed second stage implementation date in 2024, technical developments will mitigate the requirement for improved direct vision. In fact, the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement in April on the revised General Safety Regulation. The updated rules will make certain new safety technologies mandatory at type approval level in European vehicles as early as 2022, while others will be phased in slightly later. The new mandatory features will include technology to warn of driver drowsiness and distraction, intelligent speed assistance, reversing safety camera or sensors, data record in case of an accident (‘black box’) as well as specific requirements to improve the direct vision. But importantly, these features will be included in new vehicle design which is a more effective route than retrofitting existing vehicles on the road as the various pieces of kit will be designed to properly work with one another.
In the meantime, the logistics industry has already made significant progress in improving safety through investment in driver training and fitment of cameras, sensors, audible alarms and other safety-related equipment. These measures have already helped to contribute to a decline in serious collisions: the average number of cyclist fatalities involving HGVs per million cycle miles fell from 0.043 in 2009 to 0.034 in 2015, a reduction of nearly 21 per cent. While this figure must decrease further, it illustrates that a range of targeted interventions can deliver change when implemented collectively. The logistics industry has already made huge strides in improving safety on our roads, borne out by the statistics, and it is vital that logistics operators continue to develop standards and take them forward intelligently. But despite the huge advances already made, Sadiq Khan seems determined to focus on visibility from the cab, when it is clear other strategies will deliver far greater and more ongoing safety improvements, to the benefit of all road users.