Transport for London (TfL) has published the first of the ‘star ratings’ for its HGV Direct Vision Standard (DVS), which it will use to decide which trucks will be allowed access to the capital, in a bid to protect vulnerable road users from vehicles which have poor close-proximity visibility.
The ratings are described as ‘interim’, and are subject to a consultation with stakeholders this autumn, so may change before the DVS is implemented. But they give a detailed idea of TfL’s intentions as regards the scheme for the first time.
The authority claims that in the last three years, trucks have been involved in 20 per cent of pedestrian fatalities and 70 per cent of cycling fatalities in London, but only make up four per cent of road miles in London.
The initial tranche of ratings covers some Euro 6 trucks from DAF, Dennis, MAN, Mercedes-Benz, Renault Trucks, Scania and Volvo.
Since the October print edition of Transport Operator was prepared for press, several new ratings have been added (including four-star ratings) and some existing ratings have been amended, so that the reference table published in that issue no longer accurately reflects the stars awarded for all models/heights.
In anticipation of potential further additions and amendments, we recommend that interested parties visit and bookmark the TfL Safer Trucks website to allow them to check vehicle models directly.
Cab heights on the website are given in millimetres, and defined as the distance between the cab floor and the ground when the truck is unladen and standing on a level surface. The measurement is taken from behind the accelerator pedal.
Stars have been awarded on a scale from zero to five. As of 20 October when this article was published online, traditional long-haul cabs such as the DAF XF, MAN TGX and TGS and Volvo FH were listed as having zero-star ratings. TfL has not yet listed ratings for any Iveco models at all.
In Phase One of the scheme, TfL proposes that, by 2020, all trucks over 12 tonnes GVW entering or operating in Greater London will require a safety permit.
This will automatically be granted to truck models with a star rating of one or more. Other trucks would require additional safety measures before being allowed into the capital, the precise nature of which have yet to be decided – but could include sensors or indirect vision devices, audible or visual warnings around the vehicle, guards to deflect vulnerable road users, and safety training for drivers.
Phase Two is planned to come into force in 2024. Trucks with star ratings of two or less would need to meet the requirements of a ‘progressive safe system’ which has not been decided, but will be more stringent than those in Phase One’s requirement for additional safety equipment.
Other makes and models of trucks, including Euro 4 and 5 versions, are being assessed.
As expected, trucks with low-entry cabs and glazed windows, of the type usually used for dustbin collections, score the highest ratings.
Mercedes-Benz and (to a lesser extent) Dennis have been enthusiastically promoting the use of these municipal chassis for a variety of urban applications, but the fully-automatic transmissions, poor ground clearance and unconventional weight distribution of these vehicles mean that they are not always suitable for general use.
On more conventional trucks those with low, narrow cabs and kerb-vision windows score the best.
Traditional tippers with high-clearance chassis do badly, and TfL claims that these vehicles are over-represented in serious collisions with cyclists and pedestrians and that their use is not normally necessary on construction and tipping sites in London. It is arguing for the establishment of grades for site access, so truck operators would know if a high-clearance vehicle is needed to access them.
The Road Haulage Association said that it welcomed the “clarity” which TfL had brought with this announcement, but chief executive Richard Burnett cautioned: “This only highlights the scale of the issue and reaffirms what we’ve been saying for some time: that the vast proportion of existing HGVs will not meet their currently proposed standards.
“It is positive that we now have an opportunity to work with TfL and the industry to find an effective solution to improve road safety in a balanced way and to have recognition that the issue is complex and will require a lot more work to ensure that the best possible road safety benefits are obtained.”
“The proposal for Direct Vision Standards may be part of the road safety mix; however it is unlikely to be the panacea to the road safety challenges faced by London.
“TfL have not been clear about what impact the proposal will have on road safety as the focus has been on the engineering standards and visibility from the cab in isolation from other factors”
He added that: “The RHA will continue to work with TfL and operators to ensure that we achieve the best possible outcome for safety but we need their reassurance that the cost of permits will be set to do no more than recover the cost of operating the permit scheme.”
From the manufacturers, Mike Corcoran, commercial director of Volvo Trucks UK & Ireland, said: “Volvo has always had safety as a core value and on initial review we are pleased that most of our range will comply with the interim vision standard evaluation until 2024.
“However, Volvo Trucks also believe that safe driving in urban environments is complex, where many factors come into play. Whilst direct vision is important, there are other safety devices and technologies available or being developed that will assist the driver now and in the future.
“We hope to see these come to the fore during the forthcoming discussions regarding the final HGV safety standard permit scheme. As a consequence, we encourage our customers to look at the results from the first stage of the consultation, and take part in the forthcoming discussions on direct vision and the HGV safety standard permit scheme.”