Reacting to today’s announcement from Transport for London and the Department for Transport of their intention to target HGVs over the issue of cycle safety in London, RHA Director of Policy, Jack Semple, commented:
“The Industrial HGV Task Force of VOSA and Met police officers should both improve road safety and do much to benefit fair competition in this sector of road haulage industry. The involvement of HMRC and DWP in today’s high-profile roadside enforcement action is welcome and follows a well-established formula that has been used to good effect elsewhere.
“The Task Force has the merit of taking an identified problem and addressing it head-on. The RHA proposed a similar clamp-down more than five years ago, when the issue of HGV operating standards was first raised by TfL.
“DfT minister Stephen Hammond’s statement that ‘we will target the small minority of large goods vehicle operators who are unaware of, or just wilfully non-compliant with, safety regulations for HGVs and their drivers,’” sends a very clear message and strikes the right tone.
“The review of Construction and Use regulations on side-guards is something with which we are broadly comfortable. And the joint approach of TfL and DfT to Brussels, to advance low-cabbed trucks with good visibility, will be followed with interest by the industry.
“The Driving Standards Agency is to consult on mandatory training for HGV drivers on cyclists and other vulnerable road users within the Driver CPC Directive. The RHA has been reviewing the Driver CPC in detail and we will be contributing to that review.
“The Mayor is also asking Londoners for their views on whether he should use his powers to levy a substantial ‘Safer Lorry Charge’ on any HGV which is not fitted with basic safety equipment to protect cyclists. From my initial understanding of this levy, there will be many complications, few benefits and TfL’s resources would be much better spent on other initiatives,” Semple said.
Danger of scapegoating HGVs
The RHA is concerned about the overall tone of the announcements, however. “It would be unfortunate if the impression was left that the industry was being scape-goated – seen as easy targets because other necessary safety actions are too difficult or too sensitive,” Semple said.
“Cycle safety is affected by HGVs and their drivers, certainly – that is a point the RHA makes repeatedly to members; but it is also affected by the driving standards and culture in London as a whole and we need to see more emphasis on that. In 2012, more than twice as many cyclists were killed by cars as by HGVs and more than 300 times as many were seriously injured by cars as by HGVs.
“Poor cycling standards and wholesale disregard for the law and Highway Code is a hugely important issue and it should not be left to figures such as Laura Trott to highlight the need for improvement, as she did a few days ago. There is a deafening silence from Boris Johnson and TfL on that issue.
“And then there is the design of the roads that cyclists and drivers are asked to share. Were either TfL of DfT to set down a specification for a safe road for driving and cycling, I doubt if many London roads would pass the test,” Semple said.
It matters little to road safety what TfL does about HGVs, if the roads are fundamentally unsafe, car drivers carry on as they are and cyclists continue to break the law, weave in and out of traffic and can’t be seen in the dark.