Take action for safer lorries

Direct vision Mercedes Lorry. (Photo: S&B Commercials - Mercedes-Benz)

Take action for safer lorries

Transport for London (TfL) is seeking your views on a possible step towards safer lorries. But with your help, this could be the first step to a much bigger win. CTC is proposing a 'roadmap' so that, within a few years, the only lorries allowed on most built-up streets in London and elsewhere would be those whose cabs let the driver see cyclists as easily as bus drivers can.

Consultation on further improving lorry safety

Transport for London (TFL) has opened a consultation on proposals to further improve lorry safety in London through an extension of the existing Safer Lorry Scheme.

This isn't just a London issue. If we can persuade TfL to adopt our proposed 'roadmap' towards lorry safety, lorries with blind spots could be taken off most built-up streets throughout the country within a few years. You can support our online action and support this via our online tool here.

Take Action for Safer Lorries

Whilst the publicity around and pressure to improve lorry safety for cyclists has been largely London-led, this matters elsewhere. The Government’s major infrastructure plans are predicted to lead to nearly a quarter of a million new jobs in the construction industry by 2021, and growth in every nation and region of the UK. That means much more lorry traffic.

Wales leads the way with a 7.1% annual construction growth forecast, and where there is construction growth there is construction traffic, with implications for cyclists given the over-representation of such vehicles in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSI) on our roads.

Safer Lorry Scheme

TfL's current Safer Lorry Scheme (the Scheme), introduced last September, applies 24 hours a day seven days a week, and covers all roads in London except motorways. Under the Scheme, lorries over 3.5 tonnes are banned across London unless fitted with required safety equipment including extended view mirrors and sideguards.

The extended mirrors increase the field of view of the driver and decrease the size of the vehicle's blind spot. The sideguards reduce the risk of a cyclist being dragged under the wheels of the lorry in the event of a collision.

The Scheme was introduced following the appalling catalogue of KSI cyclists in London from collisions with lorries. Between January 2008 and July 2015, 56 of the 99 cycling fatalities in collisions in London involved lorries,with 29 of those being construction vehicles. Seven of the nine cyclist deaths in London in 2015 involved lorries, and between 2010 and 2014 lorries were almost ten times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision than cars.

Five months of casualty statistics do not allow any statistically significant conclusions to be reached, but overall the Scheme has been judged to be a success, with reports suggesting that most operators working in and out of London are complying with the new safety requirements .

Further improving lorry safety in London

TfL’s consultation concerns proposals to require further safety modifications to all lorries operating in London. Improving the driver’s direct vision and reducing the blind spots that contribute to so many tragic deaths is the main aim.

TfL is suggesting extending the Scheme to require lorries to retro-fit bigger side windows (vision panels) in the lower section of passenger-side doors. Replacing part of a solid passenger-side door with a glass vision panel below the traditional passenger-door window gives drivers a better, direct view of adjacent cyclists and pedestrians. It makes it easier for them to spot cyclists on their near-side who might otherwise be hidden from view.

Better vision, but not good enough

CTC has responded to TfL’s consultation and supports the proposal to extend the Scheme to include passenger-door vision panels. These improve drivers’ direct view of vulnerable road users who are near to the front left hand side of their lorries, an issue in many ‘left hook’ lorry collisions with cyclists.

CTC is also recommending that the changes should be implemented and enforced on a 24/7 basis, as with the existing restrictions, and similarly across all routes within London. They must also be easy to enforce, with minimal if any vehicle exemptions.

Whilst CTC welcomes TfL’s initiative to move forward with lorry safety, vision panels should just be the next step and not the end point in safer lorry design. They improve direct vision on traditionally designed lorries, but that design is outdated and inherently unsafe.

Direct Vision Lorries

TfL has confirmed that their longer term aim is to see the widespread up-take of low-entry, panoramic 'direct vision' lorries on London’s roads as soon as possible. Direct vision lorries such as the Mercedes Econic and the Denis Eagle Elite are already available, but not yet in mass production. They cost more than the alternative non-direct vision lorries, but the price differential will reduce once the operators place bulk orders. They need to be both encouraged and pressured to do so.

Direct vision lorries give drivers a lower seating position in the cab, which looks more like the front of a bus than a traditional lorry cab. Vision panels do offer an immediate improvement in traditionally designed lorries, and can be retro-fitted at a modest cost, but direct vision lorries which provide a much greater improvement in terms of driver visibility and safety must be the ultimate goal.

TfL’s consultation does not mention direct vision lorries other than to say they are the long term aspiration. There needs to be a plan or ‘roadmap’ setting out how operators and the industry move from retro-fitting existing lorries with vision panels, to direct vision lorries being encouraged, then contractually required, and ultimately non-direct vision lorries being banned.

CTC has also been in positive dialogue with both HS2 Ltd (the Government-backed company promoting the HS2 Rail Link) and Highways England about the use of direct vision lorries on their construction contracts. We hope the Government will show leadership by supporting these proposals.

CTC's response to TfL's consultation sets out our proposed ‘roadmap’ to direct vision lorries.

Please support our call to Take Action for Safer Lorries

CTC’s ‘roadmap’

Following an EU-wide campaign in 2014 co-ordinated by the European Cyclists' Federation - with CTC leading the charge in the UK - MEPs supported legislation to require safer lorry designs. Yet the lorry manufacturers managed to park that debate, persuading the French and Swedish Government to veto any plans even to permit (let alone require) the use of safer lorry cabs on the longest lorries. The move to direct vision lorries therefore needs to commence ahead of such legislation and, unless technology improves, it can only apply to lorries which are less than the maximum permitted length.

Meanwhile CTC is asking TfL and the 33 London Borough Councils to stimulate the market for direct vision lorries, so that eventually they become the norm in London - and then beyond - by initially preferring direct vision lorries in their procurement and contracts, then making this a contractual requirement, and ultimately banning all non-direct vision lorries from London’s roads.

About 20% of the UK’s lorry fleet operate in London five or more times each year. Changes to London’s lorry fleet should be a catalyst for change elsewhere, particularly as increased devolution permits other devolved nations and regions to implement their own versions of London’s Scheme.

CTC’s specific call to TfL and the Boroughs is to support our proposed ‘roadmap’, and the strengthening of lorry safety requirements in Greater London in respect of all lorries over 3.5 tonnes by:

1. Extending the existing Lorry Safety Scheme to ban lorries that are not fitted with a passenger-side door vision panel;

2. TfL and all 33 London Borough Councils (the Boroughs) agreeing to express a preference for direct vision lorries in all planning applications and publicly funded contracts they are involved in;

3. TfL and the Boroughs agreeing to make direct vision lorries a contractual requirement by 2020, by which time direct vision lorries should be more widely available;

4. TfL committing to ban lorries which do not meet direct vision standards from London’s roads by 2025.

TFL and the Boroughs have the commercial, contractual and procurement power to lead if only they have the will to do so.

CTC’s call to Take Action for Safer Lorries

Cyclists’ safety demands a move to direct vision lorries, but the move needs to start somewhere, hence CTC’s proposed ‘roadmap’ to encourage and then ultimately compel change.

If the cycle of tragedies involving lorries is to be broken we need your support for our call to Take Action for Safer Lorries, as set out in our consultation response to TfL.

You can support our Action via our online tool. There you will find an editable email letter to TfL’s consultations team, expressing your support for this Action and our ‘roadmap’. Getting this adopted in London would act as a rapid catalyst for change throughout the UK.

We hope you will support our campaign.

Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert


Whilst I would support such a move.... is it not a two way street?, should there not be a law banning cyclists from being "parked" or riding between the kerb and lorry in the first place?

If not a law, could CTC and other organisations show good cycling awareness by demonstrating safer road positions for cyclists?

I really feel that we do not get buyin from other road users because we never seem to consider concessions or work with other road users Why should we be so cycle centric

Roger's picture

We do provide this advice - see https://www.ctc.org.uk/article/cycling-guide/top-ten-tips-for-cycling-in....

However, in several other EU countries, the law clearly places the responsibility on drivers to look out for pedestrians or cyclists who are crossing roads they are turning into or out of. Hence drivers in those countries are much more clearly in the habit of looking out for cyclists coming up on their inside, while cyclists from those countries are much more accustomed to having that unambiguous right of way when going straight ahead at junctions (and I'd add that they are also more likely to have a protected cycle track to help them do this).

In short, we have to strike a balance between offering this advice to cyclists for their own protection, without in any way inferring that cyclists who fail to heed it are necessarily at fault - bearing in mind that they clearly wouldn't be in several other European countries. Those countries place the onus squarely on the operator of the more dangerous machine to avoid causing danger. The UK would be a safer place - for pedestrians as well as for cyclists - if we were to do likewise.