London mayor says Commission acting too slow on truck fatalities

Pressure on the European Commission to speed up the introduction of safer trucks has come from the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. In a letter to the industry commissioner Elzbieta Bieńkowska, Khan says the Commission’s deadline of 2026 for all new models to meet ‘direct vision’ requirements to allow truck drivers to see pedestrians and cyclists better is too late, adding: ‘We need to move quicker.’

Traditional designs for the cabs of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) have left drivers with blind spots in which they struggle to see pedestrians and cyclists. As a result, these road users make up a high percentage of victims of road accidents involving trucks. Designs that vastly improve vision are already available, and the Commission has agreed to include a ‘direct vision requirement’ in its revised General Safety Regulation (GSR). However, so far it has failed to define how much of the road direct vision should cover.

Bieńkowska has proposed that the GSR, which is due to be approved next year, should force all new truck models to comply with a ‘direct vision requirement’ in their cabs by 2026, and by 2029 for all trucks sold. Even these dates rely on the GSR’s revision being finalised next year. Khan says that can be improved by two years, by forcing all new models to meet the direct vision standard by 2024, and all new trucks sold should comply by 2026.

In his letter, which T&E has obtained a copy of, Khan describes the improved vision requirement as ‘a positive step’ but says accident statistics dictate that more urgent action is needed. ‘In 2016, 23% of pedestrian and 50% of cyclist deaths involved a heavy-goods vehicle, despite HGVs making up only 4% of distance travelled in London,’ he wrote, adding: ‘Whilst the issue is particularly critical in London, it is clear that a unified and consistent approach across Europe will result in many more lives being saved.’

T&E’s freight policy officer Samuel Kenny said: ‘People are dying in our streets because trucks are so badly designed that the driver can’t see what they need to. We know how to fix this, but we need to make it happen a lot faster, and we welcome the boost Mayor Khan has given to efforts to speed up better vision for truck drivers.’

Some progress has been made in developing sensors to alert truck drivers to the presence of pedestrians and cyclists, but Khan said in his letter: ‘While there is a role for cameras and sensor technology in busy urban areas, the evidence shows that improvements to direct vision is the most effective way to prevent road casualties.’