EXCLUSIVE COMMENT: Creating safer roads in London

10/09/2014
Highways Reporters

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, London’s Transport Commissioner, discusses the work that is being done to reduce the risks associated with cyclists sharing the roads with heavy goods vehicles.

No vehicle operator or driver wants to be involved in a collision and no organisation wants a death or an injury in their supply chain. Sadly, the facts are that while heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) represent less that four per cent of the traffic on the capital’s roads, between 2008 and 2013, 55 per cent of all pedal cycle fatalities in London involved direct conflict with a HGV.

Industry commentators regularly point out that pressure has mounted on vehicle operators to do everything possible to reduce the risk of a collision with a cyclist or pedestrian – which is true. However, this pressure needs to be managed by all parts of the industry working together. Not just operators - but clients, suppliers, vehicle manufacturers, enforcement bodies and transport authorities.

We also need to work with other road user groups, including cyclists, to reduce the risks they may be putting themselves into. Large parts of the industry are now working collaboratively to take ownership and tackle this serious issue – they deserve huge credit for this work. Many operators have voluntarily trialled and fitted safety systems to their vehicles, put drivers through vulnerable road user awareness courses and trained staff on managing road risk. Many have also signed up to the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS), an accreditation scheme that aims to improve fleet activity in London and throughout the UK and beyond. Gaining accreditation, which is now a requirement for any company working for TfL, can help you tender for business, save money, improve safety as well as reduce the environmental impact of their fleet.

Compliance is key

Regular road safety police operations are also being carried out across London by the Industrial HGV Task Force, targeting non-compliant heavy goods vehicles, drivers and operators using the capital’s roads. Since last October, this has resulted in almost 3,000 vehicles being stopped, with 36 vehicles being seized, 1,319 roadworthiness prohibitions and a further 776 fixed penalty notices issued. Regular road safety police operations, based on the original ‘Operation Safeway’ which ran at the end of last year, continue to operate across London, targeting dangerous and unlawful behaviour by lorry drivers, motorists and cyclists. During the original Operation Safeway activity last year, police were stationed at 170 junctions over a seven-week period and around 14,000 fixed penalty notices were issued, of which 29.5 per cent were to cyclists and 70.5 per cent to motorists.

Underpinned by the stark findings of TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) research, the Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety (CLOCS) initiative has brought together over 60 organisations from the construction logistics sector: principal contractors, property developers, vehicle manufacturers and regulators. Within weeks of the first meeting the Standard for Construction Logistics: Managing Work Related Road Risk was developed and published.

The publication of this single common standard last December harmonises requirements for operators and for the first time also places road safety obligations on clients such as major engineering projects, principal contractors and property developers. It is not owned by Transport for London (TfL) or any one organisation – it is a standard created by, and for the industry. It shows ownership, responsibility and commitment throughout the whole construction supply chain to improve the safety of all road users. This single standard is an industry led response and will help ensure work related road risk requirements are consistently implemented by clients.

CLOCS has shown that change can happen quickly – it is now down to the logistics industry, their clients and those of us in authority to make this industry standard widespread. I would urge those haven’t yet looked at the new CLOCS website www.clocs.org.uk to do so and speak to their clients and subcontractors about getting involved. Already over 40 organisations have signed up as CLOCS Champions – from major construction projects like Crossrail, Thames Tideway Tunnel and HS2 to more independent developers and operators who are keen to be seen as industry leaders in this field. As more companies adopt these standards, the benefits will ripple throughout the industry, both in terms of safety, but also in terms of productivity, reputation and financial savings.

Improving standards

While it is important for the industry to lead in improving standards, it is also important that highway authorities do their bit as well to ensure safety standards are regulated and maintained. In July, TfL and London Councils began consultation on our Safer Lorry Scheme, which will require every vehicle in London over 3.5 tonnes – a disproportionate cause of cyclist and pedestrian deaths – to be fitted with sideguards to protect cyclists from being dragged under the wheels. It will also require them to be fitted with mirrors giving the driver a better view of cyclists and pedestrians around their vehicles. The scheme, which subject to consultation responses could be introduced by early 2015, would be enforced by CCTV cameras and on-street checks, subject to final approvals by the Department for Transport.

London has long led the way in working with the freight industry to drive up standards, especially in terms of greater road safety, better driver training and reduced vehicle emissions. By making CLOCS and FORS the default national standards, we can all work together to create a level playing field with other parts of the servicing and delivery industry as well as demonstrate the industries, and TfL’s, commitment to safer roads for all – not just in London, but across the UK.
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