Lorry safety equipment plan for London

It now seems likely that new legislation will shortly be in place making it an offence within London for many HGVs to drive without special safety equipment designed to help reduce the carnage of cyclists in the capital.

A depressing statistic

Whilst some lorry drivers might be inclined to see this as yet another attack on their profession, it is a sad fact of life that HGV’s were involved in over 50% of all cyclist road accident fatalities in London during 2013. That, as a percentage, may be entirely disproportionate to the respective number of cars versus lorries on the capital’s roads.

So, it is clear that something has to be done.

The Mayor of London is proposing levying large fines on heavy goods vehicles* unless they carry basic cyclist-safety devices providing, amongst other things, good visibility for the entire length of both sides of the vehicle.

Although exact details of the scheme have yet to be announced, it seems likely that it will be in place by the end of 2014.

A balanced approach

In practice, all professional heavy goods vehicle drivers would welcome increased safety equipment on their vehicles if it helps to protect the lives of other road users around them. Pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and even other car users, are exceptionally vulnerable to a heavy goods vehicles and everyone needs to learn lessons and take increased precautions accordingly.

In fairness, the London authorities have also recently taken steps to try and clamp down on some of the very dangerous and occasionally illegal cycling practices that can be seen on the streets. Examples include jumping red lights, cycling on pavements and weaving in and out of slow-moving traffic or along the inside edge of other vehicles.

Hopefully, by insisting upon improved safety equipment on the vehicles concerned and improving cyclist awareness and training, society will be able to do something about these appalling casualties.

A note of caution

It may be necessary though to keep a touch of realism in our expectations in these areas.

There may be fundamental and possibly painful questions that need to be asked in addition to taking some of the above steps:

  • given the hopelessly crowded state of many of the United Kingdom’s roads, the question might need to be asked as to whether it will ever be safe for highly vulnerable users such as cyclists and motorcyclists to share them with HGVs and cars;
  • there may need to be some care when talking about local initiatives, regulations and laws. Unless we are potentially to have drivers needing to consider different sets of rules and regulations for every town and city they drive through, it must surely be sensible to consider national as opposed to very local solutions? How, for example, could they meet the demands of truck insurance to comply with all laws if they vary widely?

The problem of crowded and dangerous roads is one that needs national and perhaps European action to overcome. Laudable as local initiatives may be, they may not prove to be a viable part of an on-going strategic solution to the background problem.

It has been clear for at least 50 years that we need a vast national debate and investment programme covering our entire transport infrastructure. Whilst we continue to do nothing other than to simply highlight a growing number of problems and tweak things with local initiatives, the chaos on our roads, rail networks and airports will continue to get worse.

It may be time for someone to bite the bullet and think about some radical solutions to these types of problems.