Update on the lorry safety jigsaw

Just outside Wardington Village, Oxfordshire - soon to have 500 HGVs passing through daily. (Photo: Wardington) FlickrCC, Alex Donohue
As CTC asks supporters to Take Action for Lorry Safety, Duncan Dollimore provides a news update on how the challenges to protect cyclists from lorry danger are being tackled, including vehicle design, procurement, safer employer and driver behaviour, and lorry bans.

CTC's call to action

On Wednesday (15 February), CTC launched its online call asking supporters to Take Action for Safer Lorries, in response to a consultation opened by Transport for London (TfL) on proposals to further improve lorry safety in London .

If you missed this, you can find out more about our call to action in our news report and support the action via our online tool.

Briefly, CTC is asking TfL and the 33 London boroughs to lead the way in requiring lorry operators to use only direct vision lorries. These give their drivers a lower seating position and provide them with as much window as a bus driver has, making it much easier for them to spot pedestrians and cyclists.

The lorry safety jigsaw

Moving to direct vision lorries nationally, however, involves several issues including procurement, incentives for operators, lorry restrictions and bans. This news update on the lorry safety jigsaw outlines recent developments with these and related lorry safety matters concerning employer’s responsibilities and vehicle design, and will explain what this means for cyclists’ safety.

Responsible operators and CLoCs

55% of London cyclist fatalities since 2008 involved a heavy goods vehicle (HGV), which in February 2013 led the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to publish the Construction Logistics and Cyclists Safety (CLoCS) report. This report reviewed the construction sector’s transport activities to understand the causes of collisions given the significant over representation of construction vehicles in cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSI).

The resulting industry-led CLoCS programme brought together vehicle manufacturers, construction clients, fleet operators and others including road safety charities to address the report's recommendations, and seek to fundamentally change how the construction industry manages work related road risk (WRRR), especially for vulnerable road users (VRUs).

Safety benefits of industry compliance schemes

CLoCs sets standards for fleet operators and others such as construction clients and local authorities, which ’CLoCS  champions’ commit to comply with. For fleet operators these standards include ensuring that:

1. Agreed safe vehicle routes are specified and adhered to (eg: not taking lorries through residential short cuts);

2. The conditions on their sites are suitable for vehicles designed for on-road use, and which are fitted with safety features so that the use on public roads of less safe vehicles, designed for off-road use, is minimised;

3. Undue pressure is not placed on drivers to meet dangerous time deadlines.

Essentially for fleet operators, CLoCs is an industry compliance scheme, which also requires them to demonstrate that they are a ‘Quality Operation’, via an approved independent fleet management audit such as the Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS).

CTC believes that compliance with CLoCS standards and FORS requirements reduces the risks construction vehicles pose to cyclists. Metropolitan Police Commercial Vehicle Unit (CVU) figures from 2015 showed that FORS operators were:

1. 64% less likely to be involved in the 'Most Serious Infringement Offences’;

2. 50% less likely to be involved in drivers' hours offences.

Data reported directly into the FORS performance management system also show that, between 2012 and 2013, FORS operators reduced injury collisions by 42%, and total collisions by 25%.

Industry compliance schemes such as CLoCS encourage a culture of safety beyond the construction site gates, and raise the awareness of WRRR amongst construction clients, down the supply chain, with drivers, relevant authorities and regulatory bodies.

Whilst CLoCS is predominantly focused on the construction sector, the recommendations of the TRL report and the lessons from CLoCS, also have wider relevance for all lorry transport safety and WRRR.

Undercut by rivals who skimp on safety

The problem with doing the right thing is that not everyone does. Compliant operators, keen to address lorry and cyclist safety issues, signed up to CLoCs and recognised that road risk should be treated no less seriously than on-site health and safety. But the compliant need to be rewarded, not disadvantaged by those with less conscience and regard for road safety once a driver leaves their site.

FM Conway Ltd and O’Donovan Waste Disposal Ltd are both CLoCS Champions who were interviewed last year for a report by the Evening Standard, along with campaigner Kate Cairns. Kate founded the See Me Save Me campaign - which works to eradicate collisions between HGVs and VRUs - after her sister Eilidh Cairns was tragically killed in 2009, crushed under the wheels of Joao Lopes’s 32-tonne tipper truck. Lopes was fined £200, given three penalty points for driving with uncorrected defective eyesight, but allowed to continue driving HGVs.

Lopes had at least another three collisions before killing holocaust survivor Nora Gutmann at a pedestrian crossing in 2011, whilst again driving an HGV without his glasses.

Convicted both of causing death by dangerous driving and altering his vehicle’s tachograph records, Lopes was imprisoned and disqualified from driving. However, Lopes's story also highlights the ‘responsible employer’ issues which CLoCs seeks to address. Why, for example, did Lopes’s employers allow him to carry on driving HGVs, with defective eyesight and without glasses, when he kept crashing?

Jacqui O’Donovan, Managing Director for O’Donovan (Waste Disposal) Ltd, provided an insight from the perspective of a responsible employer, telling the Standard that her company was undercut by rivals who skimp on safety, adding that "They’re only interested in the pound note. Price is king."

Casualty cost with pay per load

A construction driver interviewed by the Standard also highlighted the pound note and pay priority, with some companies still paying by the load rather than per hour, leading their drivers to "drive like maniacs" and "take insufficient breaks". Another report concerned a driver given an impossible delivery time to safely drive across London, who was then given a warning after failing to meet the unsafe delivery target.

O’Donovan explained that progressive employers recognised that problem, and hadn’t "paid ... by the job for donkey’s years". Similarly, Joanne Garwood, health and safety board director for FM Conway, confirmed that "it would be cheaper to pay by performance, but our drivers are driving huge articulated vehicles – you have to be responsible – many companies leave a bit to be desired [on safety]".

Buying power can defeat the lorry luddites

O’Donovan and Garwood’s companies want to do the right things on lorry safety and are committed to CLoCS standards, but are understandably concerned about less scrupulous rivals undercutting them with scant regard for their vision of cultural change on lorry safety and WRRR.

Kate Cairns summed up the answer to that dilemma, and what was needed to incentivise the compliant and penalise the industry luddites, demanding that "Local and national government should specify in all infrastructure procurement that companies meet the CLoCS standard – all the way down the supply chain", and that "buying power" should be used "to stop these avoidable deaths".

CLoCs needs to grow with construction

CLoCS was a TfL initiative born out of the appalling catalogue of KSI cyclists from London lorry collisions. Construction vehicles alone were involved in 29 fatal collisions in the seven years to July 2015, with fatalities increasing as construction work increased. That’s why CLoCS, safer lorries, procurement and our call to Take Action for Safer Lorries, will be of increasing relevance outside London, because construction is planned to increase nationwide.

The Government's major infrastructure plans have led to estimates of construction growth in every UK region and nation over the next five years, with Welsh construction forecast to grow most and Scotland the least. Somerset County Council has claimed that the HGV traffic during the eight year and £18 billion construction of Hinckley Point nuclear power station will be limited to a maximum of 750 daily lorry movements in and out of the site, and an average daily maximum of 500 movements.

Estimates change over time, but wherever major construction is planned, whether Hinckley Point, Wylfa nuclear power station in North Wales, HS2 to Birmingham or phase 2 to Leeds and Manchester, or through the Government’s £15 billion Roads Investment Strategy (RIS), construction means construction traffic.

If the cyclist fatalities in London are to be avoided elsewhere, the lessons from London’s experience, both positive and negative, need to be learnt and applied nationally.

Ambition Cities and the Cambridge CLoCS

CTC advocates that CLoCS should be adopted as a national standard for safer lorry equipment, driver training and fleet management. Local authorities (LAs) should also make it a condition of planning permissions for construction.

Procurement  policies, especially from public authorities, should stipulate that the supply and delivery of goods and services takes the safety of VRU into account, and that operators comply with set, high standards (CLoCS for construction-related activities or the equivalent for other operations such as waste disposal).

This requires the wider adoption of CLoCS or similar standards outside London, and CLoCS have contacted all eight cycle ambition cities and met with LAs in Cambridge, Leeds, Newcastle and Birmingham to encourage the adoption of CLoCS standards in those regions.

Perhaps predictably it is Cambridge, the city with the highest modal share of journeys undertaken by cycle (20%), which has gone furthest, implementing their own university-led version of the scheme, Cambridge CLoCS, to improve cyclists’ safety as HGV traffic increases during the university’s £2 billion construction work over the next five years.

With 29% of people in Cambridge now cycling to work and 50% of people cycling at least once per week, Cambridge presumably doesn’t want its cycling revolution punctured by lorry collisions with cyclists.

Prevention through procurement

Whilst CLoCS standards cover more than just procurement issues, it is impossible to overstate the opportunity for government, councils, publicly funded organisations and large corporations to improve lorry safety and prevent fatal collisions through their commercial and statutory decisions - and extend beyond CLoCS.

Firstly, councils have buying power. Camden Borough Council is a CLoCS champion. They can insist that companies contracting with them sign up to CLoCS standards and make those standards a condition of planning consents, significant for Camden given that an additional 720 HGVs will be travelling into and out of Camden during the HS2 construction at Euston.

Planning power

Councils can also insist via planning conditions that construction site roads are suitable for on-road vehicles. Over the last three years, 79% of the fatal lorry collisions with cyclists in London involved lorries designed to be driven off rather than on-road, with higher lorry cabs and restricted vision. Some firms are reluctant to use safer on-road specification vehicles in case they have to occasionally be driven over rough ground at building sites or rubble tips, so they continue to use 32-tonne tippers and concrete mixers built to off-road specifications, but which spend 98% of their time on public roads.

By imposing simple planning conditions, LAs can eliminate the incentive and perceived need for off-road vehicles to be routinely used in urban environments they were not designed for.

As with CLoCS and FORS, which are championed by responsible operators, the call for site planning conditions is supported by, and a key ask of, those within the construction industry who are keen to affect change. For instance, the Construction Industry Cycling Commission (CICC) published a 10 point manifesto in November to tackle lorry safety challenges. In addition to calling for industry-wide adoption of CLoCS standards, they specifically identified that a key action for LAs is the imposition of planning conditions to ensure that sites are suitable for vehicles fitted with safety features and sideguards.

CICC's message finally appears to be getting through outside London, with reports this week that Northumberland County Council has now included CLoCS safety standards in planning conditions, to address lorry danger on rural roads from increased construction and quarry traffic.

Cycling along the HS2 construction corridor

Camden is of course not the only council whose residents will face a significant increase in HS2 construction traffic. Wardington village in Oxfordshire is braced for 500 lorries passing through daily for three years transporting excavated soil .Construction traffic in Coventry is estimated to include 1125 lorry movements a day along Kenilworth road, a 96% increase in HGV traffic. Both the construction of the new Birmingham Interchange Station  and Curzon Street Terminal will also bring more construction traffic.

Given this predicted escalation of HGV traffic along the HS2 corridor, CTC petitioned the House of Commons regarding the HS2 Rail Bill, with CTC’s Policy Director Roger Geffen giving evidence to the Commons Committee scrutinising the Bill last November.

Whatever your views on HS2, building nuclear power stations or other major infrastructure projects, if they’re being built we need to minimise the safety risks for cyclists from the resulting construction traffic, a significant point in Roger’s evidence to the Committee.

Following discussions with CTC, HS2 Ltd's (HS2) policy looks likely to adopt CLoCS standards throughout the HS2 route, so that only those contractors who sign up to CLoCS standards can tender for contracts for this major national infrastructure project. Companies like FM Conway and O’Donovans shouldn't lose out to rivals who bid low and skimp on safety.

Securing the commitment of big spenders of public money like HS2 to safety standards and safer vehicles is crucially important to reduce lorry danger for cyclists, not least because of their procurement power and ability to influence the industry ‘norm’.

HS2 have also confirmed it will continue discussions with CTC about minimising the risks posed by its construction operations, including the use of direct vision lorries, the ultimate aim of CTC’s call earlier this week to Take Action for Safer Lorries, and our proposed roadmap to direct vision lorries, which we will also be discussing with HS2.

Highways England

CTC doesn't agree with the Government’s £15 billion RIS, and believes that some of that pot of money should be reallocated to fund cycling, and David Cameron’s evaporating promise of a Cycling Revolution. If the planned roads programme proceeds, however, then Highways England (HE, the government-owned company that operates, maintains and improves England’s motorways and major A roads) needs to follow HS2’s lead on adopting CLoCS standards, and progressing towards the use of 'direct vision' lorries, through its contracting and procurement processes.

CTC put this to HE last October, with the result that their Cycling Strategy, published last month, committed to "improving cycling safety measures for construction vehicles on our network". We will now urge them to adopt more specific policies based on our 'roadmap' approach, whereby 'direct vision' lorries would initially be preferred on HE contracts, becoming a contractual requirement in due course.

HGVs parked in the EU long stay bay

If industry compliance schemes, urging the adoption of CLoCS, persuading TfL to adopt a ‘roadmap’ to direct vision lorries, petitioning HS2 and lobbying HE seems a circuitous way to tackle lorry safety issues, it is! However, there is a reason why.

Following an EU-wide campaign in 2014 co-ordinated by the European Cyclists' Federation and led by CTC in the UK, the European Parliament voted to support legislation on safer lorry design. The proposed legislation relaxed the current restrictions on the length of lorry cabs (the reason why traditional lorries have such box-shaped cabs), to permit longer cabs with a more streamlined nose, crumple zones, and a rounded front with large windows, increasing the driver's field of view by 50%.

The proposal had been to allow these designs by 2017.  However, following lobbying from the lorry manufacturers, resistance from the French and Swedish Governments forced the implementation of these new rules to be delayed until 2022. Even then, the changes will merely permit the use of new longer lorry cabs with an extended nose. They don’t require this.

This is why the circuitous route to improving lorry safety has to be followed, otherwise there is a risk little or nothing else will happen for several years. Procurement, planning, roadmaps, CLoCS and buying power are all required because the EU parked the lorry legislation in the long stay bay.

Targeting the rogue operators

Regrettably, some people can’t be persuaded to act responsibly. They need to be forced to or be put out of business. That was the thinking behind the London Freight Enforcement Partnership (LFEP), launched last October as an intelligence-led collaboration between various enforcement agencies to target enforcement against the least compliant HGV operators.

CTC supported this initiative when it was announced, particularly in light of the failure of enforcement agencies to co-operate and share information to tackle rogue operators evident in the tragic cases of both Alan Neve and charity cyclists Toby Wallace and Andrew McMenigall, which CTC have reported upon many times (we still await an answer from the CPS and HSE regarding any prosecution of Frys Logistics Limited in the latter case).    

The signs are extremely positive regarding the LFEP, who appear to be making life difficult for those Jacqui O’Donovan might describe as the ‘skimpers’, for whom compliance and safety are secondary to profit, thus giving the compliant a chance to compete whilst operating safely, which links in neatly with the ethos behind CLoCS procurement.

LFEP are due to publish their first report in March, and CTC will comment further thereafter, but strongly support the idea of multi-agency co-operation and targeted enforcement.

And finally – Take Action for Safer Lorries

This round-up of lorry safety developments commenced with reference to our call to Take Action for Safer Lorries, launched earlier this week, and our roadmap to direct vision lorries. Hopefully, we have pulled the pieces of the lorry safety jigsaw together to explain why procurement, and public authorities like TfL using their commercial clout to lead change, are so important.

If you haven't already done so, you can support our online action for Safer Lorries via our online tool here.

Please do so.

It is really important both for those who cycle, and those who otherwise might but are worried about unsafe lorries.