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London's lorry safety scheme has taken off, says TfL

Over 130,000 Direct Vision Scheme permits issued in first three months

Mark Moran
10 June 2021
Several freight operators, including SUEZ Recycling and Recovery and FM Conway, as well as major projects such as Tideway, have led the way in introducing 5-star vehicles to London
Several freight operators, including SUEZ Recycling and Recovery and FM Conway, as well as major projects such as Tideway, have led the way in introducing 5-star vehicles to London

More than 136,000 safety permits have been issued to date and nearly 70,000 heavy goods vehicles have been fitted with safety measures to protect people walking and cycling since the introduction of London’s Direct Vision Standard (DVS) scheme in March.

The DVS, which seeks to reduces lethal blind spots, was introduced by Transport for London (TfL), working with the London boroughs, the freight industry and campaign groups.

The Direct Vision Standard scheme requires owners of Heavy Good Vehicles (HGVs) weighing more than 12 tonnes to apply for a free permit that assigns vehicles a star rating based on how much the driver can see directly through their cab windows in order to be able to drive in London. It is now operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is enforced on all roads in London. The standards are set to tighten further in 2024, which will deliver even safer lorries across the country.

HGVs are rated between zero and five star as part of the Direct Vision Standard. To date, more than 136,000 permits have been issued, including more than 4,000 to 5-star vehicles, which provide the highest levels of direct vision. Around 70,000 0-star HGVs have now had safe systems fitted, improving protection for people walking, cycling or riding e-scooters or motorcycles and saving lives.

Those without a permit face a penalty charge notice (PCN) of up to £550 and since March around 7,000 PCNs have been issued. Permits are electronic and enforced by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, and operators of non-compliant HGV will be issued with a PCN of £550 per day, which will be reduced by 50% if paid within 14 days.

TfL enforcement officers also carry out roadside inspections to check that HGVs are safe and safety measures are in place, resulting in some permits being revoked.

Introduced with the support of London Councils, the Direct Vision Standard forms part of the Mayor of London's Vision Zero plan to eliminate all death and serious injuries from London's streets by 2041. HGVs accounted for just 3% of the overall miles driven in London 2018-20, yet were involved in nearly half (41%) of fatal collisions involving people cycling and 19% involving people walking. This means that HGVs are five times more likely to be involved in a collision resulting in a fatality, relative to their share of traffic. Provisional data from 2020 shows that 13 people walking and cycling died in collisions with HGVs and four people walking and cycling in London were sadly killed by HGVs in the first three months of 2021.

Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner, said: “Our world-first Direct Vision Standard has saved lives and improved road safety from day one, and I’m delighted that three months in the number of lorries fitted with vehicle safety measures has more than doubled to around 70,000 HGVs. By working with the freight industry and taking this bold action we are making our streets safer for the increasing number of Londoners who walk and cycle in our city, and tighter regulations will be introduced in 2024.

“DVS is a key part of the Mayor’s Vision Zero plan, together with lowering speed limits to 20mph and transforming dangerous junctions. City Hall and TfL will continue to take every possible measure to eradicate all deaths and injuries from our roads.”

Christina Calderato, head of transport strategy and Planning for TfL, said: “In just a few months our Direct Vision Standard has helped to dramatically improve the safety of lorries and save lives. We want to thank all of the freight operators who have led the way in ensuring they only operate the safest lorries in London and across the UK and we would like to encourage any freight operators who haven’t yet applied for a safety permit to do so. The safety permits are just the first step in our aim to ensure that families don’t experience the tragedy of preventable road collisions involving HGVs and we will be strengthening our life-saving Direct Vision Standards in 2024.”

Cllr Claire Holland, vice-chair of the London Councils Transport and Environment Committee, said: “Improving safety on the capital’s roads is a top priority for London boroughs. We recognise the challenges posed to at-risk road users by larger vehicles carrying essential goods and services across the capital. Ensuring lorry drivers have good levels of visibility will help to protect at-risk road users and could increase the number of people who walk and cycle in the capital as they feel more comfortable to do so. This is vital for our efforts to tackle air pollution for London’s diverse communities and ensure a safe and sustainable recovery from the pandemic

“London’s boroughs are major supporters of the Direct Vision Standard Safety Permit scheme for HGVs. I am pleased to see such a positive response since its introduction from the freight and logistics sector, with a huge number of vehicles registered and upgraded to meet the standard. It is early days, but this innovative scheme will make sure that lorries driven on London’s streets are among the safest in the world.”

Kate Cairns, founder of the See Me Save Me campaign, said: “The success of the DVS shows how hard work, collaboration and willingness to take action can change culture. We remember the thousand who have lost their lives over this decade of change, as we continue to build on the great work of TfL, industry and campaigners to ensure safe lorries are ubiquitous not just in London but across the UK and Europe.”

Victoria Lebrec, head of policy, campaigns and communications for RoadPeace, said: “In 2014 a driver behind the wheel of a lorry failed to see me whilst I was cycling, and crushed me. I lost my leg as a result of the crash and have been left permanently disabled. The Direct Vision Standard will prevent crashes like mine. Transport for London should be commended for introducing the scheme, and it’s fantastic to hear that so many permits have been issued, which will save lives and prevent serious injury. Unfortunately, at RoadPeace we see too often the devastation of a serious injury or fatal collision, and it’s right that penalties are being issued for operators who are not complying with the permit scheme.”

Derek Rees, Programme Director for CLOCS (Construction Logistics and Community Safety), said: “In the last five years, over 28,000 fatal and personal injury collisions occurred between Vulnerable Road Users and vehicles commonly used in construction on Britain’s roads. The Direct Vision Standard makes a massive contribution as it ensures direct eye contact between the driver and the pedestrians, cyclists and more – critical to prevent collisions and build community confidence in active travel.

“CLOCS drives collaboration between regulators, construction clients, principal contractors and fleet operators to raise standards through planning and procurement; its ‘Clear Dash, Safe Cab’ campaign further supports the DVS.”

HGVs rated 1 to 5 stars received their free safety permit automatically upon application. The operators of lorries rated 0-star HGVs operating in London – are required to fit safe systems including:

  • High quality mirrors and side guards
  • Cameras covering blind spots linked to an in-cab display
  • An audible warning when turning left
  • Motion sensors covering the sides of the HGV at low speeds
  • A prominent warning on the back of their vehicle.

Several freight operators, including SUEZ Recycling and Recovery and FM Conway, as well as major projects such as Tideway, have led the way in introducing 5-star vehicles to London, which provide high levels of direct vision and are the most effective at reducing tragic road deaths and serious injuries. As a result of the efforts of many freight operators’ safer HGVs are now being used across the UK and beyond. TfL is also working with the EU and other cities to mandate direct vision in vehicle design and safety regulations.

The DVS and Safety Permit scheme is progressive and the standards will tighten in October 2024 when the minimum DVS star rating will be 3-stars and above. All HGVs below 3-stars will need to feature a progressive safe system that takes into account any additional technology or safety equipment not currently available.

Around 150,000 HGVs enter London every year and there are many reasons for this high number, from changing online shopping habits to growing businesses that require more frequent deliveries. Yet the impacts are clear on congestion, road safety and air quality. The Mayor and TfL want to cut the number of HGVs and vans entering central London in the morning peak by 10% by 2026 and are working with the freight industry to achieve this.

The UK’s first electric cargo bike grocery delivery service is operating in London, West End businesses are working together to cut daily vehicle movements from 144 to nine just by coordinating rubbish collection and construction projects like the Northern line extension and the Thames Tideway Tunnel have made a shift to transporting goods by water. These initiatives are already having a positive impact on London’s streets and business, by reducing congestion, air pollution and road danger and bringing down costs and improving delivery times for business as well.

TfL's Direct Vision Standard was developed in conjunction with Loughborough University's School of Design and Creative Arts and through extensive engagement with lorry manufacturers.

Head of Network Development - Highways and Transportation
Essex County Council
Up to £79,326 per annum
Head of Network Development - Highways and Transportation
Essex County Council
Up to £79,326 per annum
Head of Network Development - Highways and Transportation
Essex County Council
Up to £79,326 per annum
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