London to ban trucks with lousy driver visibility

mercedes front
via Road Danger Reduction Forum

In London, four percent of the vehicles cause 58 percent of cycling deaths and 22.5 percent of pedestrian deaths. As in North America, most of them are hooks- trucks turning left in London, right in North America. Most of them are SMIDSYs- “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”.

In the US and Canada, not much is done about it, just another cost of doing business. But in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan is taking serious action, and banning older trucks with poor visibility from the city. Big trucks, called HGVs or Heavy Goods Vehicles there, and regular trucks, called lorries, will be subject to inspection and evaluation. Peter Walker of the Guardian explains:

Khan’s plans, immediately welcomed by cycling groups, will give construction trucks and other HGVs a star-based safety rating from zero to five, based on the amount of vision the driver has. By January 2020, those with a zero rating – primarily construction trucks with a high cab and big clearance under the wheels – will be banned. By 2024, only trucks rated three stars – “good” – or above will be allowed in the city.

The trucking industry is outraged.

But nobody is saying get rid of all trucks, just the ones with terrible visibility. As the Mayor says, “I’m not prepared to stand by and let dangerous lorries continue to cause further heartbreak and tragedy on London’s roads.”

And of course truckers and drivers alike say that it is all the cyclists’ faults for riding up beside them when they should know that the turning truck is going to turn and could squish them and they all go through red lights and deserve what they get anyway.

But the fact is, as we have discussed many times on TreeHugger, that this is a design problem. These trucks were not designed to maximize vision but to maximize loads. So cab-over designs were popular because you can have a shorter truck in the city where turning radii are tight, but that the driver is so high that he or she cannot see someone right in front of them. (See my favourite example: New York truck driver not charged because victim was short) So the trucking industry fights every life-saving innovation, saying it will add weight (and increase fuel consumption) or reduce loads (and reduce revenue.) So even simple things like side guards are rejected.

In Europe, as I have noted before, companies like Mercedes and Volvo sell trucks that are designed to reduce the chances of hitting pedestrians and the damage when they do. They are lower, not cab over but cab in front where the driver is right down there at street level with great visibility.

It is not an unreasonable thing to demand that companies bringing goods into cities do it in vehicles where their drivers can see what’s around them. In London, they have four years to get ready for it. In North America, it’s time for our politicians and regulators to do the same thing.

And Bravo, Sadiq Khan.

Just yesterday in Canada, Former astronaut and current Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced…

… a new task force to discuss safety measures to reduce injuries and fatalities involving cyclists, pedestrians and heavy trucks. The task force, established through the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators will explore cameras, sensor systems, side guards, as well as educational safety and awareness programs. To complement the work of the task force, Transport Canada will undertake a study to examine the benefits of modern technologies to reduce collisions between vulnerable road users (cyclists and pedestrians) and heavy trucks.

I hope they also look at London and go back to first principles; it’s all about design.

London to ban trucks with lousy driver visibility
It is a fixable design problem and unlike in North America, they are doing something about it.

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