Tuesday 26 March 2019

TfL ‘passes the buck to manufacturers’ on direct vision

Transport for London (TfL) has announced that vehicle star ratings for the direct vision standard (DVS) scheme are now available for Euro 6 trucks. But instead of publishing them directly, it is asking operators to contact the appropriate truck manufacturers in order to seek advice based on the model and specification of the vehicle concerned.

The DVS star ratings – which will be used to determine the requirements trucks will have to meet in order to operate on London’s roads so as to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety – aim to gauge the level of direct vision available to drivers from the cab.

Interim DVS star ratings for numerous models were published by TfL on its website last year. They were rapidly revised, and then disappeared shortly afterwards “to avoid any confusion”, with the authority citing technical issues with the ratings which necessitated further “important work”.

Now a fresh announcement from TfL directs operators to its website, where they can find contact details for most of the truck manufacturers, in order to enquire about the star ratings of their existing Euro 6 vehicles, or models they are looking to purchase.

“Your manufacturer will calculate the star rating of your vehicle(s) based on the approved technical protocol,” says TfL on its DVS web page.

“They will then advise you of your DVS star rating(s). We will also keep a record of your star rating and a formal confirmation will be sent to you once the permit scheme proposals have been through the final consultation process.

“Manufacturers are expected to receive a large number of enquiries but will aim to respond to you within 10 working days.

“The height of your vehicle will change depending on the load. Manufacturers will calculate the average between the highest possible and lowest possible height for your vehicle type, which will be used to determine its final star rating.”

Euro 6 vehicles have been prioritised in the classification process due to forthcoming ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) requirements, TfL explains – but it adds that it is continuing to work with truck manufacturers to rate older Euro 4 and Euro 5 vehicles “which may continue to operate in Greater London area under certain conditions”.

As Transport Operator‘s April print edition went to press, the list of manufacturers on the website was incomplete. An Iveco spokesperson told us: “We are in the process of setting up a dedicated email address to enable our product engineering team to receive Direct Vision Standard (DVS) enquiries directly from operators, and we’ll be submitting this to the TfL website shortly.

“The process of scoring our vehicles is currently underway, although we recognise that the current plans are still subject to consultation and sign-off by TfL.”

Under the DVS proposals, TfL would require all HGVs over 12 tonnes to hold a safety permit in order to operate in London from 2020.

“Safety permits will be introduced in 2019, with the most dangerous zero star rated HGVs to be banned from Greater London in 2020, if operators do not fulfil the requirements of a new Safe System,” said the authority.

“From 2024, the safety threshold would be raised to a minimum of three stars, prohibiting those HGVs rated two stars and below if not operating with a progressive Safe System.”

According to TfL, the Safe System has been developed in conjunction with “an independent advisory group including representatives from vulnerable road user groups, freight trade associations, vehicle manufacturers and other government organisations” – and will include devices such as cameras, sensors and audible warnings.

But Transport Operator’s contacts in the freight industry point out that there is still little clue as to what exactly will be acceptable or required in terms of the Safe System, and that consultation is still in progress. TfL has only said that details will be finalised before permits become available in 2019.

Christina Calderato, head of delivery planning at TfL, said: “The disproportionately high number of HGVs involved in fatal collisions with pedestrians and cyclists is a tragedy. This is why we’ve worked closely with the freight and logistics industry and vulnerable road user groups to develop the DVS and HGV Safety Standard Permit Scheme.

“Together we hope that these new safety measures will help to save many lives in the future.”

But industry figures continue to raise questions about the way the DVS system has been implemented.

Phil Moon, the marketing manager of DAF Trucks, which holds about one-third of the new UK truck market, said: “DAF Trucks remains supportive of initiatives that can help improve road safety.

“We are disappointed, however, that the star rating system chosen leaves many mainstream models with zero stars, leaving operators considering new vehicles with little incentive to choose equivalent alternative models with a lower mounted cab.

“Those same operators, and those with existing vehicles, will need to wait until the Safe System specification is defined before they know what additional cameras and sensor systems they will need from 2020.

“The Safe System is the only practical option for many types of operation, which leaves vehicle manufacturers and operators needing urgent clarification of the Safe System requirements.

“Once Safe System requirements are confirmed, DAF will be able to develop customer solutions for both new and existing vehicles.”

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said TfL was “passing the buck onto manufacturers” regarding the star ratings.

“TfL cannot say how the permit scheme will work, who will approve all the lorries to enter London, how much they plan to raise for charges or how and what standards for extra safety equipment will apply,” said the trade association.

“The RHA believes that TfL are not listening to the road haulage industry; if they did, they’d understand that this scheme as conceived isn’t going to work effectively for road safety. We need a balanced, broader approach to increasing road safety – more understanding of road-user and pedestrian behaviour, and what needs to be done to improve road infrastructure.

“We are seeking information from manufacturers on the DVS star ratings and will share any helpful information when we get it.”

Meanwhile, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) also said it was concerned that DVS would fail to deliver the safety improvements London mayor Sadiq Khan was hoping for – and that he was “misguided in his determination to press ahead”.

While welcoming the availability of details on DVS star ratings, FTA head of urban policy Natalie Chapman described the “entire project” as “flawed”.

“The whole process of implementing a DVS in London has been incredibly frustrating and disappointing,” she said. “Especially since the mayor seems determined to focus on visibility from the cab, when research shows new technology would deliver far better results.

“FTA’s members take safety very seriously indeed and we have been advising our members operating in London to examine all available safety features when procuring new vehicles. In fact, TfL’s long drawn-out process in implementing the DVS is actually delaying the purchase of new safer, cleaner trucks.

“Operators have been forced to postpone new acquisitions, until they are given adequate detail about the star ratings and the standards required by the new Safe System.”

FTA said detail about the requirements of the Safe System should be provided urgently, “especially as many will need time to purchase and fit any additional equipment”.

Chapman also called for coordination between the DVS scheme and the introduction of the ULEZ, “to give logistics operators a fair chance to plan for the future”.

“Logistics operators do a remarkable job keeping the capital supplied with goods under very difficult circumstances. The mayor should take another look at these two schemes and delay the start dates to give organisations the chance to prepare properly,” she said.

“In the end, he’s going to make it harder and more expensive for London’s residents and its businesses to get the goods and services they need. And the DVS scheme, as it stands, will not achieve the major safety benefits he is anticipating. There are simply better, more effective options.”

At the time of printing, operators could request star ratings from the truck manufacturers using the contact details provided at the TfL website, here.

Image: additional window panels in passenger doors are one means of improving direct vision of vulnerable road users, such as on the Volvo FE low-entry cab range, pictured.

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