Stricter Direct Vision Standard (DVS) rules, due to be launched next year, could be delayed if hauliers are struggling to access the safety kit needed to upgrade their trucks, Transport for London (TfL) has revealed this week.
The move follows a consultation on the DVS upgrade which found almost two thirds of freight industry respondents raised concerns about their ability to meet the launch date and the availabilty of the reqired kit, more than half criticised the lack of information on the required technical specifications and over a third feared the cost of the upgrade.
Launched in 2019 DVS aims to cut cyclist and pedestrian deaths in London involving HGVs, by making operators fit equipment - a Safe System - to minimise HGV blind spots.
TfL is now planning to make DVS rules even stricter from October 2024, with HGVs entering Greater London requiring additional safety equipment - the Progressive Safe System - or meet a three star DVS rating.
Hauliers whose trucks do not already have a three star rating have been given a three month grace period from 28 October 2024 to buy, fit and test any new safety equipment required.
However TfL has announced today (June 13) that the three month grace period could be extended, if a market readiness review finds that hauliers need more time to meet the standards. The grace period will only be offered to those operators which supply evidence showing that vehicles have an appointment with fitters to install PSS equipment.
A roundtable on the DVS held recently by MT in association with Brigade Electronics heard that there could be serious workshop and parts capacity issues as operators struggle to upgrade their vehicles.
"We estimate there are at least 211,000 vehicles with permits which will expire in October 2024 and every operator will have to reapply for a permit by showing the vehicle is rated at least three stars or has a Progressive Safe System fitted. It will be really difficult to do that in 16 months," said Mike Bennett, legislation engineer, DAF Trucks.
The review will be carried out by the London Councils Transport and Environment Committee in June 2024 ahead of the launch in October.
Referring to the grace period, TfL said: “This will be kept under review and in June 2024, London Councils Transport and Environment Committee will consider whether any further extension is needed.”
TfL's announcement follows its report, Making London’s Lorries Safer, on the findings of its consultation on the upgraded DVS critieria, which closed in April.
The report, published last week revealed that 63% of freight industry respondents raised concerns about the PSS launch date and whether the industry could purchase, fit and test the new system, given the volume of vehicles affected, by October 2024.
More than a third (35%) of freight industry respondents were concerned about the costs involved and 53% raised concerns that PSS technical specifications had not been provided, making it difficult to assess the level of equipment upgrade required.
Respondents also complained about wasted investment to date in the current Safe System and said the lack of detail undermined the consultation's validity.
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Another 44% of freight industry respondents questioned the new requirement for sensors to be fitted to articulated trailers, given cabs use multiple trailers. There was also calls for a more streamlined permit system including an on-line permit checker.
RHA and Logistics UK welcomed TfL's decision to allow a review ahead of the launch next year. In a joint statement they said: “The review is needed as significant questions remain over what the final DVS requirements will be.
“This includes the future status of kits, investments already made to ensure lorries are compliant and why potentially all existing kit will need to be replaced at potentially high costs to operators who have already invested significantly in good faith.
They slammed TfL for failing to provide this information, despite their repeated requests during the consultation on the changes, which has now closed.
They said: “Both associations are disappointed that, during the consultation process earlier this year, TfL did not release detailed technical specifications that could have resolved these issues.
“We are deeply concerned that TfL has a poor understanding of the lead-in times required, and the basis on which TfL are making decisions is not clear.”
They added: “Logistics businesses operate on very narrow margins and cannot afford to repeat these costs at a time when inflation and vehicle operating costs have risen, while also investing to meet the net-zero by 2050 deadline."
Both organisations insisted they support the move to improve vehicle safety to help cut deaths on London roads caused by lorries.
They added: “However, alongside the safe operation of vehicles within London, it is crucial that the well-being of our vital businesses are factored in.”
DVS, which was introduced in 2019 as part of London mayor Sadiq Khan's Vision Zero strategy, which aims to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from London’s streets by 2041. DVS tackles road danger at its source by minimising HGV blind spots.
Since the introduction of DVS, fatal collisions involving HGVs and vulnerable road users, where vision was a contributory factor, have fallen by 75%.