Safer lorries coming to a street near you
Sometimes we get so bogged down in negative news – like the backlash to Wales’s bold 20mph change and Rishi Sunak’s challenge of LTNs – that we miss the good. This summer, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) adopted a new direct-vision standard for HGVs.
What does this mean? In short, lorries in the UK and across Europe will soon have to be designed in a way that makes it much easier for their drivers to see pedestrians and cyclists. Cycling UK has spent years advocating for a stringent direct-vision standard because it will prevent countless cyclist deaths.
What is direct vision?
Direct vision means that an HGV is designed in such a way that its driver can see outside the cab directly, rather than through mirrors or cameras.
It minimises blind spots, typically through expanded wrap around windows and a lower seating position – similar to that of a bus. The electric Volta Zero is one example of a direct vision lorry.
Why does it matter?
TfL research has shown that HGV drivers react more quickly when seeing someone directly, through their window, rather than indirectly through a mirror or camera.
In many collisions, drivers of standard lorries said they are unable to see a cyclist or pedestrian at all. When that happens, collisions often prove fatal for the other person, due to the weight and mass of the lorry.
From 2018 to 2022, only about 1% of all cyclist casualties in Great Britain involved an HGV, but 12% of cyclist deaths involved one. In cities like London that figure is much higher. Of all cyclist casualties involving an HGV over that time period, more than 6% were fatal.
In 2019, while the UK was still a member, the EU passed the EU General Safety Regulation, which included a requirement for lorries to meet a direct vision standard by 2029. However, it left the details of what that standard should be for UNECE to work out.
UNECE, informed by research from the UK’s Loughborough University, finally published that standard (UN standard 167) in June this year. It sets out different direct-vision requirements for different types of HGVs. Lorries that are more likely to drive through urban areas, for example, have stricter direct vision requirements because they are more likely to encounter cyclists and pedestrians.
UN standard 167 is legally binding for all EU countries, and can be adopted by other countries – as was the case for the UK .
The new direct-vision standard was inspired by London’s own standard. This was introduced in 2021 and banned some lorries from entering London if they were rated as having poor direct vision.
The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), of which Cycling UK is a member, played an important role in lobbying the EU to introduce a standard similar to London’s across Europe. We are very pleased to see that the work of ECF and others has led to this game-changing regulation being adopted across the UK, Europe and beyond!