London mayor Sadiq Khan has asked Transport for London (TfL) to delay the enforcement of the Direct Vision Standard (DVS) scheme, as well as upcoming changes to the low emission zone (LEZ), in a bid to help reduce the preparatory burden on fleets during the coronavirus crisis.
The DVS has been designed to improve safety for vulnerable road users in the capital by limiting access to London for vehicles offering poorer direct vision, unless they have safety systems installed.
Under the terms of the scheme, anyone driving an HGV in Greater London without a safety permit would have received penalties of up to £550 from 26 October.
The LEZ standards were also due to be tightened on the same date for lorries, buses and coaches across most of Greater London, in line with the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) scheme in central London.
While the schemes will still legally come into force on 26 October, the mayor has asked for enforcement to be delayed for at least four months to give the industry more time to adopt safer and cleaner vehicles.
This means no charges will be payable or enforced for non-compliant vehiles under the new standards until the end of February 2021. The enforcement start date will remain under review.
TfL had already taken steps last month to suspend the current LEZ, ULEZ and congestion charge in the capital, to ensure critical workers and essential deliveries were unimpeded.
Sadiq Khan said: “Coronavirus has disrupted supply chains and placed additional demands on the freight industry, making it more difficult for new standards to be met on time.
“To help ease pressure on the sector I’ve asked TfL to delay the enforcement of the new stricter rules, initially for four months, to allow the freight industry to focus on its core operations during the pandemic.
“People should not be travelling, by any means, unless they really have to. London’s roads should only be used for essential journeys.
“I continue to urge all Londoners to follow the advice of public health authorities and not leave their homes unless it is absolutely essential to save lives.”
Christina Calderato, TfL’s head of transport strategy and planning, added: “The tighter standards for the LEZ and DVS are both absolutely vital to our plans to make London a cleaner, greener and safer place to live.
“We’re committed to bringing these changes in as soon as practically possible while supporting the freight industry and recognising that the coronavirus pandemic has placed intense new demands on people and organisations across the capital.”
Natalie Chapman, head of urban policy at FTA, welcomed the move.
“Logistics businesses are having to give their complete attention to the urgent task of keeping goods moving across London throughout the Covid-19 outbreak; there is simply no time, resource or funding for them to undertake the significant work needed to prepare their fleets for the arrival of DVS and the tightening of the LEZ,” she said.
“As such, we are relieved the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, listened to the concerns shared by FTA’s Chief Executive, David Wells, in his letter dated 20 March 2020 and has agreed to delay the enforcement of both schemes for at least four months until the end of February 2021.
“FTA and its members support fully the Mayor of London’s ambition to improve road safety and air quality across the capital but dealing with the immediate crisis of Covid-19 – a situation unprecedented in our times – must for now take priority.
“Logistics operators are already facing significant disruption to their operations as members of their workforce fall ill and/or enter into self-isolation.
“Achieving compliance with DVS will require many goods vehicles over 12 tonnes to have additional cameras, sensors and alarms fitted.
“However, supplies of technology, equipment and trucks are already being disrupted and more effects are expected.
“Delaying enforcement will allow businesses to focus their efforts on ensuring the population of London continue to receive the food, hygiene products and other basic items required to see them through this pandemic.”
Chapman continued: “Whilst the announced delay will give welcome relief to logistics operators, a longer period is likely to be needed for businesses to adjust and FTA will continue to work collaboratively with TfL on the details and the timetable.
“Many operators had already started replacing vehicles and fitting additional safety equipment in preparation for the original October deadline, so in many cases compliance with these schemes will be realised even sooner than the original October deadline.”
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) warned that despite the postponement, the DVS was in danger of putting struggling firms out of business. It called for TfL to push back implementation by at least a year.
“It’s unthinkable that TfL and the mayor are going ahead with DVS at this time,” said RHA chief executive Richard Burnett.
“Hauliers supplying London with the goods they need during the crisis are already facing a financial struggle for survival.
“Saddling them with huge costs to upgrade their vehicles right now is short-sighted and beyond belief – they need more time.
“Adding a year to the roll out of this scheme would cost the authorities nothing and save many firms from going out of business. It would be a win-win for common sense.”