LGV operators should not feel they are being singled out in the drive to cut cyclist deaths and injuries in London, as modifications to make construction vehicles safer are just part of a package of measures being introduced to improve cycle safety, London major Boris Johnson said on Monday (9 December).

Launching the Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety (CLOCS) Standard for construction logistics: Managing work related road risk at City Hall, the mayor pledged that London’s “cycling revolution” will continue and he had no intention of discouraging people from getting on their bikes.

“Cycling in London is getting safer,” he asserted. “Serious accident rates are down a quarter in the last decade.”

The mayor is under intense pressure to act after a spate of six cyclist fatalities involving trucks or buses in a period of nine days in November, bringing the total to 14 so far this year – the same in the whole of 2012.

"We are working very hard to drive up safety standards,” said Johnson. “Trucks will have to fit sidebars and audible and visual warnings – all the things that are commonsensical to reduce accidents.”

A taskforce has been set up to target the seriously non-compliant operators and in the New Year the mayor will consult on his proposal for a Safer Lorry Charge to be levied on any LGV that is not fitted with basic safety equipment to protect cyclists entering London.

But Johnson again turned down calls from some campaigners for LGVs to be banned in rush hour.

The mayor listed a range of other measures that are being taken to improve cycle safety, including the Met Police’s Operation Safeway, which had fined over 700 cyclists for jumping red lights and a budget of nearly £1bn allocated to improving the road network and 33 of the most dangerous junctions. A cycling safety tips campaign has also been introduced, and 38,000 children and 8,000 adults trained.

The cycle superhighway network will be expanded with a new east-west route between the City and Ealing and a network of ‘quiet ways’ – back streets with green cycle lanes following tube lines – being rolled out. “We will expand the superhighways because I believe in them,” said Johnson. “Cyclists will be segregated where possible but we can’t do that everywhere.”

Hendy pays tribute to logistics sector

TfL commissioner Sir Peter Hendy paid tribute to the construction and logistics sectors for “getting onboard” with efforts to reduce casualties, acknowldeging the contribution of trade associations including the RHA, FTA and Mineral Products Association (MPA) to the CLOCS process. “I know you are all passionate about road safety,” he said.

TfL commissioned a report in February looking at why construction vehicles were involved in a disproportionately high number of fatal or serious accidents involving cyclists and in May a series of working parties came together to draft the CLOCS standard.

“Between 2008 and 2012, 53% of cycling fatalities involved LGVs even though they only represent 4% of road miles,” said Hendy. “The progress you have made shows how seriously you are taking ownership of road as well as site safety.”

Hendy – who holds a PCV licence – said that a bus driver can easily see the nearside kerb and the front of the vehicle. “It is awful and unforgiveable that an LGV driver does not have that view,” he said. “We are determined to make the case to the UN and Europe to alter the cab design so you can see out of the front and nearside. Contrivances to see into blindspots are too complex.”

Cycle and tipper truck

He commended the CLOCS standard, which he said replaced 11 different specifications for construction vehicles entering various clients’ London sites. “This was clearly a real problem,” Hendy said. “So today is a step change, with the launch of a single industry-wide code of practice on road safety that can revolutionise the way road safety is treated.”

A member of one of the CLOCS working parties, MPA chief economist Jerry McLaughlin, said that in the past, the focus for construction firms had been site safety. “Now it is on road risk too,” he said.

Multiple standards

Some in the haulage industry believe that while it is acceptable for construction clients to control what happens on their sites, it is a step too far for them to take the place of the highway enforcement agencies and look to manage road risk too.

Highlighting the proliferation of different standards London hauliers have to comply with, Jason Millett, chief operating officer for major projects at Mace, said the firm had made achieving the bronze standard of the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) compulsory in July and had planned to upgrade this to silver standard in January.

“We will have to re-engage with suppliers and tell them we are now moving to this new [CLOCS] standard,” Millett said. “We will expect compliance in the first quarter of 2014 and will put enforcement in place to make it stick.”

Millett acknowledged that while compliance may be affordable for Mace’s larger first tier contractors “for an owner operator to spend £10,000 on a vehicle may be hard”.

Mark Starosolsky, logistics leader at Laing O'Rourke, said his company fitted the full range of cycle safety equipment and trained its drivers – but admitted the results were hard to measure. “The drivers like the safety aids and video recording,” he said. “It is very difficult to measure the collisions we have avoided – but we think on balance the driver training and safety systems are having a positive effect.”

He called on vehicle manufacturers to fit sensors, warning devices and cameras at the factory to reduce cost. “We want safer vehicles and will buy vehicles that have the best safety credentials,” Starosolsky said. “We have made progress with Scania and hope to get the devices fitted at the factory soon. But these devices are no substitute for direct vision.”

The company is working with Scania to test a glass panel for the nearside door to allow the driver a direct view to the left. “We will have a prototype on the road in the next couple of weeks and if it works we will roll it out,” said Starosolsky. “We have had good feedback from drivers who say it gives them more confidence in an urban environment.”

Laing O’Rourke is also testing a six-wheeler tipper fitted with a Mercedes-Benz Econic low level cab (main image) more often seen on dustcarts, drays and airport vehicles. “These are common in municipal operations – the difference in visibility [compared with high cab tippers] is night and day,” said Starosolsky. “Why are they not used for tippers – because there is no demand. But if we work together we can rebalance supply and demand.”

Looking further ahead, Starosolsky predicted that “trucks will not bump into cyclists or pedestrian because the vehicle will apply the brakes”, adding that Laing O’Rourke is working with Cambridge University to develop just such an automated system.

Nick Blake, head of product engineering, commercial vehicles, at Mercedes-Benz, said that low cabs were available for tippers, estimated to cost around £20,000 more than a conventional vehicle. “Some people are buying them but not in great numbers for tippers,” he said. “They are more expensive but what does a life cost? It is a matter of political will – if they are required on certain contracts it would happen but there would be some very unhappy hauliers out there.”

One way to get the volumes required to bring the price of low cabs down would be to get away from the perception that cycle safety is a “London problem,” argued TfL’s Hendy. “[EU transport commissioner] Siim Kallas has shown some interest in vehicles designed for better vision,” he said. “Low cabs are not the only way to solve the problem. One way to build volumes is to ensure demand is not solely for the UK and London.”

Enforcement gets into gear

Politicians can draft rules and regulation all day long – but without enforcement they are just so much paper.

The CLOCS launch heard that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA, formerly Vosa and the DSA) and the Metropolitan Police have been increasing their enforcement effort targeted on construction vehicles suspected of being seriously non-compliant.

DVSA’s southern regional manager Dell Evans described the Industrial HGV Taskforce, a dedicated team made up of eight vehicle examiners and eight Met police officers. This had carried out 821 vehicle inspections, of which only 24% were fully compliant. The taskforce had issued 553 prohibitions and seized 14 vehicles. “It is starting to make a difference,” Evans said.

Met police chief superintendent Glyn Jones said cyclist deaths had become a favourite issue for the media but his job was to keep everyone safe on London’s roads. “There were six cyclists killed in 13 days – six pedestrians died in the same period and there was no media comment,” he said. “Since 13 November four more pedestrians have died.”

Jones said he had heard many horror stories from officers involved in Operation Safeway, including one cyclist who went up the nearside of a truck that was clearly turning left and ended up on the pavement. “Thank God there were no railings,” he said.

Nick Denton, traffic commissioner for the South East and Metropolitan area, welcomed the launch of the CLOCS standard.

He said that while it was not a legal requirement it would be a “legitimate question” to ask an operator who was regularly having accidents how much had they done to implement its recommendations.

“If the answer is ‘nothing’ that does start to affect repute,” Denton added.