As pressure has mounted on vehicle operators to do everything possible to reduce the risk of collisions with cyclists, the number of standards their drivers and vehicles are expected to meet has multiplied…

No truck operator or driver wants to be involved in a collision with a cyclist and many firms have voluntarily fitted a wide range of systems to their vehicles and put drivers through cyclist awareness or other safe driving courses to try and avoid such incidents.

Increasingly, however, truck operators whose vehicles and drivers already comply fully with existing legal requirements are being forced to fit additional equipment and engage in fresh driver training courses by a variety of new standards and schemes that have come into being recently.

So what do the main standards actually call for in terms of cyclist safety measures – and are their requirements all reasonable, achievable and affordable for truck operators?

FORS bronze

Transport for London (TfL)’s Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) bronze standard refers only obliquely to the issue of cyclist safety in terms of vehicle requirements, calling on operators to:

• Risk-assess, mitigate and control risks from vehicle manoeuvring, including driving forward, reversing, towing, uncoupling and parking

• Carry out a risk assessment on vehicle movements, followed by regularly reviewed documented policy and training where necessary

• React immediately to any collisions and make these part of the fleet management system review.

In terms of driving standards, too, the bronze level checklist contains only generalities, requiring operators to “ensure that road driving risk and workplace transport safety are controlled via a working health and safety policy and that vehicle-specific driver health and safety advice is given to drivers”.

In terms of incidents out on the road, FORS bronze additionally calls on operators to ensure any accidents or near-misses are recorded and that staff and vehicles are properly assessed before returning to the road.

FORS silver

At silver level, FORS is far more prescriptive on the issue of cyclist safety, calling on fleets to put in place a plan for enhanced training and development for drivers and line managers emphasising work-related road safety. This plan “shall incorporate the safety of vulnerable road users for those drivers travelling in urban areas”, it stipulates.

In terms of vehicles, it also calls for those over 3.5 tonnes GVW travelling in urban areas to fit side guards or a blind spot warning system to vehicles exempt from side guards under construction and use regulations. The blind spot warning system could be a sensor or camera based system.

Fleets are called on to provide a fitting plan for all relevant vehicles, records indicating what equipment has been fitted and when, and evidence of a commitment to roll the equipment out across the relevant fleet, such as arrangements with system suppliers.

The sliver standard also requires a more thorough approach to incident management, calling on fleets to ensure that incidents, collision and reported near-misses are investigated and analysed and calling for “actions to address any lessons learned and identified trends”.

FORS gold

At its highest level, FORS goes even further, obliging operators to implement the enhanced training plan for drivers and line managers they put in place at silver level and calling on them to fit all 18-tonne-plus GVW trucks travelling in urban areas with a close-proximity blind spot warning system.

WRRR standard

The Work Related Road Risk (WRRR) standard for construction logistics, devised by the Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety (CLOCS) working group and launched in December 2013 in an attempt to replace almost a dozen different specifications for vehicles entering construction sites, is intended to apply to all commercial vehicles (including non-construction vehicles) delivering to or collecting from construction sites nationwide.

While the standard itself is aimed at commercial vehicles from vans over 3.5 tonnes GVW to maximum weight artics (including abnormal indivisible loads and engineering plant), it may be applied to all vehicles entering a site, if determined by individual clients. Equally, any vehicles that visit a site only infrequently may be granted an exemption.

The WRRR standard requires:

• Prominent signage fitted to all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes GVW warning other road users not to get too close, with text size being legible by a cyclists “at a reasonable distance from the vehicle”

• Side guards to be fitted to both sides of all currently exempt rigid mixer, tipper and waste-type vehicles over 3.5 tonnes GVW, unless this is proved impractical or impossible

• Front, side and rear blind spot minimisation on vehicles over 3.5 tonnes GVW via a combination of direct and indirect vision aids and driver audible alerts. This includes:

  • A combination of appropriate vision aids and driver audible alerts fitted to the front nearside of all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes GVW
  • Additional appropriate indirect vision aids fitted to the rear of all rigid vehicles over 7.5 tonnes GVW
  • Class VI mirrors to be fitted to all vehicles where they can be mounted, with no part of the mirror being less than two metres from the ground
  • A requirement for all equipment to be kept fully operational and for fleet operators to take steps to ensure drivers recognise the use of indirect vision systems as an integral part of their job.

• Vehicle manoeuvring warning systems to be fitted to all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes GVW to warn other road users of left turn, right turn and reversing manoeuvres. Such audible warning devices should be fitted with a manual switch so they can be deactivated where appropriate, for example, when working at night.

The WRRR standard also obliges fleet operators to ensure drivers - including those exempt from or out of scope of the Driver CPC requirements - undergo approved progressive training and continued professional development “specifically covering the safety of vulnerable road users”.

Crossrail requirements

Despite the introduction of the WRRR standard, a number of major construction projects and developers still apply their own requirements to vehicles entering their sites, the most prolific of which is probably Crossrail.

Crossrail’s cyclist-related safety kit requirements for HGVs currently include:

• Class IV, Class V and Class VI mirrors

• Fresnel lens or front-mounted rear-facing camera to cover blind spot at front nearside of vehicle

• Blind spot detection kit on the nearside of the vehicle

• External alert

• Side guards on both sides of the vehicle

• Reversing camera or reversing sensor/alarm

• Cyclist warning sticker on the rear of the vehicle advising cyclists to beware of passing the vehicle on the inside.

Crossrail also requires truck and van drivers visiting its sites to undergo a one-day training course on vulnerable road users. Originally a Crossrail specific course, this has now been replaced with the TfL Safe Urban Driving course, which can be undertaken as part of the Driver CPC training requirement.

Safer Lorry Scheme/London Lorry Control Scheme

In September 2013, London Mayor Boris Johnson announced plans to fine trucks otherwise exempt from the requirement for side guards and certain mirrors £200 if they entered London without them. The so-called Safer Lorry Charge has since mutated into a complete ban on such vehicles under the Safer Lorry Scheme, which will affect all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes GVW.

TfL is currently planning to make a Traffic Regulation Order to ban HGVs without cyclist safety equipment on its roads, which carry around 45% of all HGV traffic in London. London Councils, the body that represents London’s 32 boroughs, is also seeking to enact it own traffic order, effectively making the ban pan-London. The plan is for the new restriction to be in force by the end of 2014.

It is unclear exactly what mirrors will be required under the Safer Lorry Scheme – so far, the plan refers only to mirrors “giving the driver a better view of cyclists and pedestrians around their vehicles”.

Separately, however, London Councils began consulting in January 2014 on introducing a requirement for members of the London Lorry Control Scheme to fit cycle safety equipment as part of their membership. This would affect trucks over 18 tonnes GVW and would require side guards as well as Class V and Class VI mirrors to be fitted.

Industry concerns

The road transport industry has a number of concerns about the requirements of the various standards that now apply to drivers and vehicles in terms of cyclist safety and the way in which these are being implemented.

Not least among these is that although membership of the FORS scheme and the new WRRR standard is purely voluntary, compliance with these and some of the other schemes in place is increasingly becoming mandatory for delivery to certain sites, with vehicles that do not comply being refused entry.

Crossrail, for instance, has made its own particular requirements part of its contractual agreement with suppliers and will decline access to its sites to those that do not comply. That enforcement, which was quite relaxed to start with, has become much stricter in the last year or so, operators tell us.

Compliance is also becoming mandatory to win certain business at all: construction firm Mace, for example, wrote to its haulage subcontractors last year ordering them to sign up to the FORS scheme by July that year and achieve bronze accreditation if they wished to continue working with it, with a requirement to be seeking silver accreditation by January 2014.

The growing number of differing requirements itself is also a problem. Although the WRRR standard was supposed to be a single standard for construction sites, many still operate their own restrictions instead – and although these are usually broadly similar this can also lead to otherwise compliant vehicles being turned away.

Christopher Snelling, head of urban logistics policy at the FTA, says there are around 10 other standards he knows of being applied by different contractors and developers and that these are often applied very broadly to any vehicles delivering to site – not just to construction vehicles. They often also apply not just to vehicle equipment but driver training and even corporate practices, he warns.

“The multiplicity of schemes is a bad thing,” he comments. “If you’re delivering the sandwiches to the workforce on a site, you might still be caught by these kinds of rules and your drivers may be forced to do the kind of training that might be more appropriate to a volumetric mixer or a tipper truck than a sandwich lorry.”

Whether the new WRRR standard will change this much is unclear, he admits, as some developers continue to set whatever requirements they wish to. “I think some are more concerned about impressing the planning authorities that they are going to do more than anyone else, in order to gain planning consent, than they are by effective health and safety policy,” he says.

Enforcement issues

The issue of enforcement has been another problem – one truck operator spoke with recently told us a vehicle of his had been refused entry at a Crossrail site some time ago on the basis that its proximity sensor system was not working properly – in fact the system only became active when the left hand indicator was in use and was working perfectly Another operator we spoke to told us he’d initially fallen foul at another construction site of a requirement for an A3 sized warning notice, as he could only fit a much smaller sticker on the back of his flatbed trailers.

What’s particularly frustrating about some of these incidents is that attempts to explain the situation to the on-site staff and, later, to managers, don’t always work – while the second operator was able to get his smaller stickers approved eventually, the first said Crossrail had never really accepted its mistake and he was “absolutely gobsmacked by the kind of responses coming back”.

The details of some of the standards can easily be the source of disagreement, agrees RHA director of policy, Jack Semple. “Where there is disagreement, very often it’s the haulier that comes off second best,” he observes.

Part of the problem is that the requirements do not always specify just what is acceptable and what is not. Requiring a proximity sensor system, for example, is all well and good but without specifying how many sensors are needed at what intervals along a truck or what their range should be can obviously leave things open to interpretation. Including possible exemptions for trucks that visit a site only infrequently, meanwhile, obviously raises the question of how 'infrequently' is defined.

Truck operators are sometimes also given very little time to adapt their vehicles to any requirements, too – in some cases just a few weeks, suggests Snelling of the FTA. That’s not going to be a problem if it’s just a sticker that needs applying, perhaps, but where there’s a whole range of requirements, it can be much harder to comply with, he says.

In other cases, some of the requirements set by sites can lead to conflict with other obligations: Semple points to a discussion that took place last year with one firm who didn’t want audible warnings that could be manually deactivated on trucks – until it was pointed out to them that this might have led to operators falling foul of noise nuisance regulations when running very early in the morning. Snelling, meanwhile, suggests that attempts to force the fitment of extra mirrors to some smaller vehicles could lead them into conflict with the construction and use requirement for such mirrors to be at least two metres off the ground (for the sake of pedestrian safety).

Counting the cost

Many of these issues have now been ironed out but one that remains is the cost of meeting the extra requirements such standards impose, which operators invariably have to bear themselves.

Depending on the scheme, this is likely to come to at least £1,000 a vehicle in equipment terms - though much more could easily be involved and there is also the maintenance cost of onboard systems to consider, the costs of any driver training and the value of the management effort required to continuously monitor compliance. Needless to say, the up-front costs are likely to be repeated each time a vehicle is replaced, too.

While neither of the truck operators we spoke to wanted to make a big issue out of this – both accepting that you cannot balk at the cost of saving a human life - one of them did suggest that some firms they know have given up work that requires them to join such schemes or meet such standards, as they feel they cannot afford it – especially if their involvement in such work is only occasional, if the construction project they are serving is a relatively short-term one, or if they know they are going to have to replace their vehicles soon.

Will it all be worth it?

The biggest question about these various schemes and standards, however, is probably about their true worth in cycle safety terms.

FTA has already pointed out, in response to the Mayor’s plans to ban non-compliant trucks from London, that they risk adding to a growing “mess of confused standards, leaving HGV operators not knowing what they are trying to achieve”.

It has also pointed out more recently that reforming night-time restrictions in London to allow more deliveries at night would help separate cyclists and heavy trucks, something which could prove a lot more effective in terms of reducing fatal collisions between the two.

Individual vehicle operators have also pointed out that these schemes and standards are effectively adding requirements over and above the Construction & Use regulations, which were established in the first place to ensure vehicles complied to a safe standard.

The proof, ultimately, will be in whether the various restrictions and requirements lead to a reduction in the number of accidents and fatalities directly involving cyclists and goods vehicles.

Semple of the RHA says many hauliers are now focused simply on compliance with their customers’ requirements and have “gone past the point of thinking about whether the measures are worthwhile”.

But as one of the operators we spoke to for this article said: “Obviously, the data that TfL and FORS are collecting will show eventually whether there have been real improvements in vehicle safety. If it has saved a number of lives and the statistics can persuade me it’s been a great success, then the many man-hours my fleet manager and his colleagues have spent on it will have been worthwhile.” How truck operators will react in a few years’ time if the statistics don’t prove the worth in safety terms of all the measures currently being enforced, of course, is another matter entirely.

Further information




London Lorry Control Scheme:

London Councils: