Expert speakers at last week's Freight in the City Expo discussed in depth the strides already taken, and new initiatives and technology being developed, to make HGV movements on urban roads safer.

Steve Summerskill, senior lecturer in product and industrial design at Loughborough Design School, presented research into HGV blind spots, commissioned by TfL. It studied 19 models, including some of the latest low-entry vehicles to provide a comparison with standard configuration designs.

While results showed much variability between blind spots on standard cab designs, low-entry vehicles were shown to have superior direct vision, both at the sides and the front of the cab. It was also identified that variables, such as better window design and driver positioning in standard cab configurations could also help reduce blind spots.

The university is looking to define a standard for direct vision from truck cabs, which it would like to see adopted across the EU. It will also look at driver cognitive overload. “Is it reasonable to expect a driver to use six mirrors and three or more windows to look for vulnerable road users?” asked Summerskill.

Nick Blake, head of engineering at Mercedes-Benz Trucks, spoke of rapid advancements in vehicle technology, such as blind spot detection systems, automatic braking and autonomous vehicles being developed at manufacturer level, adding that often “technology is moving ahead of legislation”.

Blake urged the industry to rethink the type of delivery vehicle used in cities for all types of distribution, and not only focus on construction lorries. “Should we be using the same vehicle trunking up and down the motorway very successfully for delivering goods in an urban environment? I would suggest not.”

Sean McGrae, senior manager national transport, Tarmac, said the company’s focus on safety had paid dividends with reduced blameworthy incident rates, lower insurance premiums, increased customer confidence and contracts won based on its safety credentials.

Tarmac took the decision to not only fit Clocs standard equipment on its own-account fleet, but also fund the cost of safety gear across its subcontractors’ vehicles. “We funded the underruns and side sensors and audible alerts, and we’re now funding their Fors membership and compliance.”

The company also fits alcohol-testing interlock devices on its own vehicles as well as a telephone system that will not allow calls to be answered while the ignition is on.

McGrae stressed that vulnerable road user safety training for drivers was the key to ensuring all the initiatives were effective.

The final session in the HGV safety seminars saw the launch of an exciting new competition for students by TfL - the Future Truck Design Awards - with youngsters encouraged to design the ultimate safety truck for modern city environments.

Freight in the CIty Expo took place on 27 October at London's Alexandra Palace.