London’s scheme to improve safety standards for HGVs and reduce the risk to vulnerable road users is gaining traction elsewhere, says Exeros Technologies’ CEO Jay Biring

 

It’s a sobering fact that HGVs are disproportionately involved in fatal collisions with cyclists and pedestrians.

According to Transport for London (TfL), HGVs were involved in nearly half (41%) of fatal collisions involving people cycling and 19% involving people walking from 2018 to 2021, despite only accounting for 3% of the overall miles driven.

Often, one of the main factors in a collision is the HGV driver not seeing the cyclist or pedestrian because they were in their blind spot.

Recognising this issue, in September 2016 the Mayor of London announced plans to introduce a new scheme designed to reduce the danger posed by HGVs to vulnerable road users.

The Direct Vision Standard (DVS) gives HGVs over 12 tonnes a rating from zero to five stars, based on the driver’s direct field of vision from their cab. HGVs with a zero star rating are required to fit certain safety technology (known as the Safe System) in order to obtain a permit to enter and operate in Greater London.

‘World first’ to improve HGV driver’s vision

This, says TfL, was a “world first” as “no other city had introduced a scheme which directly altered the design of an HGV cab in order to improve the driver’s vision”.

The results of the DVS, which launched in 2019 and was enforced from 1 March 2021, have been encouraging.

Data shows that fatal collisions where vision is a contributing factor reduced by half between 2018 and 2021 (down from 12 to six), and provisional data suggests this has continued to fall from 2021 to 2023 (down from six to three).

TfL says that this shows the importance of the HGV safety permit scheme in reducing road danger in London and achieving the Mayor’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating death and serious injury from London’s transport network.

By mid-2023, more than 250,000 safety permits had been issued, including nearly 6,000 to five-star vehicles, which provide the highest levels of direct vision. More than 150,000 zero-star HGVs have had safe systems fitted.

The scheme’s average daily compliance is also very high, according to TfL, with more than 94% of HGVs in London now operating with a safety permit, and fleet operators are factoring DVS requirements into future purchasing decisions.

We’re pleased to see that TfL is now building on and improving the DVS scheme to further reduce the level of risk to vulnerable road users. From October 2024, HGVs over 12 tonnes will be required to have a three-star rating or be fitted with certain specified safety technology (collectively known as the Progressive Safe System or PSS) to obtain a permit.

Find out everything you need to know about DVS 2024.

 

The wider impact of DVS

Despite starting as a London-centric scheme, DVS has the potential to have a much wider impact on the number of fatalities involving HGVs and vulnerable road users throughout Europe.

TfL has worked with other European cities and the European Union (EU) to push for long-term improvements by mandating direct vision in EU vehicle design and safety regulations.

Across Europe, more than 500 cyclists and pedestrians are killed in HGV collisions each year. For every recorded death, another five cyclists or pedestrians suffer serious, life-changing injuries, according to non-governmental organisation Transport & Environment (T&E).

It points out that HGVs make up 2% of vehicles on European roads but are involved in 14% of fatal collisions.

EU regulation 2019/2144 seeks to address this. It requires all 27 member states to consider direct vision from HGV cab windows as a tool to reduce fatalities.

The European Commission expects that this, along with other safety measures being introduced, will save an estimated 25,000 lives by 2038.

The regulation means that all new trucks sold in the EU from July 2024 must have a number of active safety features fitted, including a blind spot information system (BSIS), which warns the driver of a possible collision with a vulnerable road user at the near side of the vehicle. and a moving off information system (MOIS), which can prevent collisions at the frontal blind spot zone when a vehicle moves off from rest . Both of these technologies are part of London’s scheme.

The regulation includes a specific requirement to “improve direct vision to enhance the direct visibility of pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users from the driver’s seat by reducing to the greatest possible extent the blind spots in front and to the side of the driver”. This is being phased in, with a deadline of 2026 for new vehicle design (‘newly type approved vehicles’) and a deadline of 2029 for all new HGVs sold in the EU.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has established the technical guidelines that will be used to implement the Direct Vision standard in Europe.

TfL says that UNECE has cited London’s DVS scheme as “a best practice example for how countries across Europe can reduce road deaths”, and it uses the experience of London “as a showcase to set specific volumetric requirements, as per DVS’s approach”.

 

Manchester and Liverpool among the cities learning from DVS

TfL’s DVS scheme has relevance for the rest of the UK given that between 2016 and 2021 at least one HGV was involved in 1,048 cycle casualties. Fatalities as a percentage of casualties were highest at 6.2%.

TfL told us that it “continues to liaise with other UK cities, including Manchester and Liverpool, on the implementation of DVS to share best practice and our learnings across the UK”.

In Greater Manchester between 2018 and 2022, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists accounted for nearly two-thirds of those killed or seriously injured, while drivers and passengers made up a third of casualties.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, has said that “much more needs to be done to make Greater Manchester’s roads a safer, healthier and more sustainable place for pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and motorists”.

Earlier this year, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) endorsed a draft version of Greater Manchester’s Vision Zero Strategy, which aims to eliminate all deaths and life-changing injuries on the region’s roads by 2040.

A spokesperson for Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), the local government body responsible for coordinating transport services in the area, told us that “the work that has been done by TfL to enhance the safety standard for trucks using London’s streets based on the DVS is certainly the type of good practice that we would wish to learn from”.

Why fleet operators should take action now

Although we can’t say with certainty that more UK cities will follow London’s lead, what is clear is that London’s DVS scheme has shone a spotlight on the issue and shown how it could be tackled. Regardless of whether you operate in London or anywhere, this is a critical safety technology for fleets that are serious about zero VRU deaths.

From a fleet operator’s perspective, if you don’t have any vehicles entering Greater London it may be tempting not to take any action until 2029 when all new HGVs have the appropriate safety technology, especially if the cost of upgrading to three-star or above vehicles is prohibitive.

But there are small steps which you can take to make a real difference to road safety now. For example, by retrofitting features such as blind spot detection to your existing fleet.

Our technology provides full coverage along the full length, front and back of the vehicle, and will accurately detect moving objects within pre-set parameters.

Apart from a driver alert, the system also warns approaching cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists of imminent danger. This addition has proven to reduce incidents even further.

If, on the other hand, you are operating in Greater London and need to comply with the new DVS rules in October we have a number of PSS Kits which can help you.

 

To find out more or simply to find out the latest with regards DVS 2024:

Email us on:dvs@exeros-tech.com

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