Monday, 2 March 2015

Reducing the danger from HGVs

The numbers of cyclists being killed by HGVs is shocking and unacceptably high, with around half of cyclist deaths in London involving lorries. A fact which has been bought in to sharp focus by the series four deaths from HGVs in the first two months of 2015.

There is no single answer to preventing these deaths and a coordinated response is needed to stop the killings. Some of the changes needed to improve safety can be bought in quickly, but others are long term changes and need to be implemented as part of a plan to systematically reduce the danger from HGVs. Having an overall vision of lorry safety is important to all us to see beyond short term policies and work towards a future where road danger is dramatically reduced from the current levels.

Planning for Safety

To address the danger from HGVs properly we need to understand how different solutions fit within the Safety Hierarchy. This hierarchy promotes measures which address the cause of danger and is used to rank/compare different safety measures. It is used all over the world as a systematic, robust and effective approach which addresses safety at source and avoids ineffective 'sticking plaster' solutions.

Safety Hierarchy:

  • Eliminate: As far as possible remove the source of the danger so it is no longer present. This is the most effective way to reduce danger.
  • Reduce: Avoid the incident occurring by addressing contributing causes.
  • Inform and Control: Provide those involved with knowledge/training and safety equipment to help them prevent incidents. This is known to be the least effective way to promote safety and is only meant to be considered once elimination and reduction have been used to reduce danger to an acceptable level.

Using this approach we can categorise measures which have been suggested to save cyclists from HGVs. If there are items we've missed, please let us know in the comments.

Eliminating HGV danger

  • Separate cyclists from HGVs so they do not share the same road space and the potential for collision is eliminated. 

Reducing HGV danger

  • Limit the times of day HGVs are allowed to use our roads to reduce the number of cyclists who are exposed to the danger - for instance by banning HGVs from driving at rush hour.
  • Improved lorry design to address blind spots and other factors contributing to fatal incidents.
  • Reduce the number of HGVs used for deliveries in urban areas by switching to safer smaller vehicles. In particular using cargo bikes as a safe and clean way to make short urban deliveries.

Knowledge and Control measures (least effective)

  • Identify common factors and train road users to raise awareness and promote safer driving and cycling.
  • Hi vis.

Evidence based decisions - are we missing something?

If a similar number of fatalities had occurred in the aviation industry or on the railways an enquiry would be undertaken to identify the causes and preventative measures. In order to take appropriate effective action to prevent further deaths involving HGVs a detailed review is needed to identify common factors.

To be effective an independent review should be undertaken and by TfL, overseen by a committee of experts including safety experts and representatives of RoSPA, RDRF, cycling organisations, councils, hauliers, construction industry, TfL and the HSE. The results of this should be made published to enable organisations and public bodies to use the information to improve their own safety procedures and help prevent deaths involving HGVs.

The review should have a wide ranging remit, not just looking at the circumstances immediately associated with the fatality but also wider factors. The review's conclusions would allow an informed decision about the best ways to protect cyclists.

As part of this I feel there should be a focus on the working practices for drivers which could be used to inform best practice for hauliers. As professional organisations changes to working practices could be quickly implemented and this is an area where safety improvements could be realised in a matter of weeks or months. The types of factors reviewed should include items such as:
  • The commercial and contractual pressure on the driver, including whether they were freelance or sub-contracted.
  • Journey duration, shift length and hours spent driving (including travel to and from work).
  • The load the lorry was carrying (heavily loaded, empty,  lightly loaded) and whether it was going to site, or returning to depot. 
  • Did the driver know the route well, or were they unfamiliar?

What should our campaign focus on in 2015?

Please fill out our one page survey to help us focus the campaign going forwards: Save Our Cyclists Survey 2015. We will use your feedback to decide where to direct our campaigning and how to make it effective.