London has recently rolled out its Safer Lorry Scheme, and as of 1st September, all hauliers that want to use London’s roads need to comply and retrofit their vehicles accordingly. But what exactly does the scheme entail?
What is it and why has it started?
London’s Safer Lorry Scheme came into force on the 1st September 2015, and applies to all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. If you have any intention of driving a lorry through London’s Low Emission Zone, then your vehicles need to comply with this legislation. All vehicles above 3.5 tonnes need to have class V (5) and VI (6) mirrors fitted, and side guards between the front and rear axles.
The scheme has come into force following numerous high profile fatal accidents involving cyclists and HGV’s. Shockingly, 7 out of the 8 cyclist deaths in London this year (2015) involved Heavy Goods Vehicles, despite the fact that they only take up 5% of the capital’s average traffic.
What kit do I need and why?
As of 1st September, all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes must have the following fitted if they intend to drive through London:
Class VI Mirror – This is sometimes called a “front blind spot mirror,” or a “driver’s wide angle mirror.” When you sit in a lorry’s cab in a driving position and look as near to the front of the vehicle as you can out of the windscreen, there are a few feet of the ground directly in front of the cab that are not visible. Class VI mirrors allow the driver to see directly in front of the cab, for example in the event that a cyclist or pedestrian is crossing directly in front of the vehicle.
Class V Mirror – Also known as an”overdoor kerb mirror,” or a “side close proximity mirror,” this allows the driver to have a clearer view of the space immediately to the side of the cab. This helps the driver to see cyclists to the side of the cab, for example when the two stop next to each other at a junction.
Side Guards – These take the form of panels or bars covering the larger open spaces between axles. They are included to prevent cyclists or pedestrians from being pulled under the wheels in the case of a collision.
Those looking anxiously at the purse strings should be aware that the maximum fine for driving a non-compliant vehicle in London’s Low Emission Zone is £1,000. Repeat offenders risk being reported to the relevant Traffic Commissioner, who is responsible for the regulation of HGV operations.
What’s the future for the scheme?
Boris Johnson has championed the scheme, and heralded it as a “life saver” at its launch. Come January 2016, he intends to consult on further proposed safety modifications, including larger side windows to further aid HGV drivers’ visibility.
London.gov.uk estimates that the cost to retrofit these windows will come at a cost of approximately £1,000 per vehicle. A high price indeed, and one that smaller freight companies may well struggle with; but it’s arguably a worthy one if it means road users are safer. The relevant authorities will most likely discuss how to legally enforce these new windows in January.
There are also plans to work with cyclists, vehicle manufacturers and freight companies to enact a legally enforceable “direct vision standard.”
Not just good news for cyclists…
Though these measures are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it is important to remember that sadly there is no sure-fire way of eliminating 100% of the risk. Though the scheme focuses mainly on cyclists, we must remember that pedestrians and motorcyclists are also to benefit as they are also potentially at risk from the blind spots that occur around larger vehicles.
As Cycle Alert succinctly put it, “no matter how many mirrors you fit to a vehicle, the driver only has one pair of eyes.”
Finally, A Safety Note to Cyclists
If you are a cyclist and you are reading this, you may be alarmed at the restricted field of view when high up in a lorry’s cab. Please approach all HGV’s with the utmost of care, especially at junctions. Never cycle close to the front or the “inside” of a lorry, bus or coach (meaning the side nearest the kerb or pavement). Be HGV Aware have a number of useful pictures on their Facebook page.
More safety information for cyclists is available at Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s website.
BBC News also has an informative video on the subject.
More information is available from the Transport for London website.