In a bid to protect vulnerable road users, or VRUs (that’s primarily cyclists and pedestrians), Transport for London (TfL), the authority that regulates all surface transport in the city, has unveiled its very own Direct Vision Standard (DVS) for trucks working in the capital of the UK.
Last year, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL officially-launched the DVS pledging to (in the words of the accompanying press release): “Rid London of dangerous lorries…the most unsafe trucks to be banned from London’s streets by 2020 – transforming road safety in London.” And they clearly have high cab trucks in their sights (no pun intended).
While I’ve no complaints with having a Direct Vision Standard for urban trucks, the reason operators buy high-riding chassis in the first place is so they can negotiate poorly prepared sites at the very first stage of construction, where these trucks are good for site clearance.
If they’re to be replaced by lower trucks – i.e. those with the same cabs, but lower driving positions, or even low-entry chassis cabs, or LECs, (rated five-stars under the DVS and cited as being ‘Best in Class for Direct Vision) then the construction companies are going to have to improve site roads to accommodate them.
Fortunately, TfL has already picked-up the ball on this and is running hard with it, having already created a site assessment handbook and a summary report on ‘Road safety standards for construction, supply and waste sites’. TfL clearly knows that if operators are to be persuaded to invest in trucks like LECs with superior direct driver vision they’ll need to be confident they’re not only good for on-road work but also capable of getting dirty too, albeit on improved site roads.
Even so, currently interest in speccing a low-entry chassis as a tipper or mixer is growing, not least as large fleets see the need to have more ‘VRU-friendly’ trucks on city and town work. Moreover, TfL’s recent research has shown that there are more waste sites in and around London capable of handling LECs than operators might have imagined.
Of course you don’t need to go to a full-blown LEC to reduce height of a truck’s driving position – as visitors to the Construction Logistics and Community Safety Scheme or ‘CLOCS’ Progress Event and vehicle display, held in London’s ExCel exhibition centre, would have seen.
Speccing smaller wheels and tyres, lowering cab mountings and adjusting suspension settings, or even going for full air suspension on a standard truck can significantly lower the height of the driver’s seat on a truck, thereby improving direct vision. Likewise, reducing the size of the dashboard and adding extra glazing in the passenger door of a normal cab can help you spot cyclists and pedestrians around the critical nearside front corner.
So will London end-up having its very own specialised truck fleet? If the DVS gets adopted (and there’s every chance it will be) then the mix of trucks allowed into the capital will certainly change.
However, there’s another factor driving change beyond the DVS. Amongst the large construction companies and public bodies (and not just those with major construction projects in London) there’s a growing trend to include a requirement in their tenders for hauliers to provide VRU-friendly ‘CLOCS-standard’ trucks if they want to do the work. So there’s now a ‘pull’ from clients, as well as a ‘push’ from regulators, when it comes to minimising the road risk of construction traffic in city streets.
Meanwhile, if you still think ‘Those pommies eh? It’ll never happen here’, are Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or Perth really so different from London? As all major cities experience air-quality problems, drivers are increasingly being encouraged to get out their cars and on their bikes or their own two feet in order to cut exhaust emissions.
Now add to that the fact that as those same major cities continue to grow, more trucks will be required to support their expansion, and the risk of a collision between trucks and vulnerable road users is only going to increase. So if you’re an Aussie operator whose trucks regularly work in a big city down-under, I’d take an interest in what London is doing. After all, ‘local’ road-safety initiatives that prevent death and injury can end-up having a ‘global’ reach too.