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Freight Transport Association: Target rogue lorry operators to improve cycle safety

Lorry operators' trade body says trying to shoehorn safety measures onto rules designed to combat noise at night won't work...

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said that it supports efforts to improve the safety of cyclists around lorries, but that local authorities in London are tackling the issue in the wrong way. It says that instead of trying to shoehorn lorry safety features into existing rules regarding lorries operating at night, poor quality lorry operators should be targeted instead.

Last month, London Councils, which represents each of the 32 boroughs in Greater London as well as the City of London, launched a public consultation regarding a proposed change of the London Lorry Control Scheme (LLCS) to require all HGVs operating within it to be fitted with sideguards and additional mirrors.

But the FTA says London Councils is guilty of attempting to impose “regulatory creep” on operators, and points out that the LLCS was designed to regulate night-time deliveries and is therefore inappropriate to tackle safety, which it sees as a separate issue.

Instead, the FTA, which emphasised that it supported the targeting of vehicles not complying with safety regulations under the Metropolitan Police’s recent Operation Safeway, says that the principal way to improve cycle safety where lorries are concerned is to target what it terms “low quality operators.”

Christopher Snelling, FTA’s head of urban logistics and regional policy, said: “FTA takes the view that adding additional requirements to vehicles delivering at night is not the appropriate way to improve safety for cyclists in the Capital.

“Instead London Councils, and the boroughs it consists of, should have looked at updating the Control Scheme, and planning and environmental health requirements, in order to allow quiet deliveries out-of-hours.

“This would enable as many lorries as possible to operate outside the peak hours when most cyclists are on the roads.

“This is an example of regulatory creep. A scheme introduced to deal with one issue – noise – is now being used to deal with another – safety.

“Transport for London still intends to regulate in this area and the Department for Transport is also reviewing requirements. How many bodies need to regulate on one issue?”

“The way to improve safety is to take intelligent, targeted measures that can reduce the number of incidents and their severity. For HGVs, this means focusing on low quality operators who fail to follow current legal safety requirements.”

Launching its consultation last month, London Councils pointed out that while lorries make up 4 per cent of London’s traffic, between 2008 and 2012 such vehicles were involved in 53 per cent of the deaths of cyclists in the capital.

Earlier this month we reported that in the first two months of a Metroplitan Police operation targeting the most dangerous construction lorries 622 out of 821 lorries stopped were being operated illegally - either the lorries were unsafe or the drivers didn't have the necessary licences or insurance to be driving the vehicles. Of the 5,996 lorries stopped last year by the Met's specialist HGV unit only 30 per cent were without either defects to the lorry or irregulariteis in the driver's licence, insurance or hours worked.

These figures can be viewed in two ways. Some will see them as evidence that the majority of lorries on London's roads are unsafe. The FTA would no doubt argue that the police are aleady tasked with targeting rogue operators and unsafe lorries so it's no surprise that the figures are high - they are not stopping a representative sample of London's HGV traffic just those most likely to be breaking the law.

Current European and UK legislation requires most lorries to have side guards and close proximity mirrors fitted, although some types of vehicles are exempt, including cement mixers, some other construction vehicles, waste vehicles and tipper trucks.

London Councils, which says it is also considering restricting lorry movements during morning rush hour, is responsible for the LLCS, which restricts the movement of lorries in excess of 18 to an “excluded route network” between 2100 and 0700 during the week and between 1300 on Saturdays and 0700 on Mondays, unless they have a permit to use other roads at that time.

At the moment, permits are issued for some 56,000 lorries, and London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee says that if additional safety equipment were required to be fitted prior to the issue of a permit, that would mean more lorries having those features installed.

Launching the consultation last month, London Councils’ chair Catherine West, who is also leader of Islington Council, said: “The tragic number of cyclist fatalities in London in recent weeks has heightened concerns about cycle safety, particularly the risk of collisions with lorries.

“There is no valid reason for lorries driving in London not to have basic safety equipment fitted including side guards and extra mirrors.

“Although the London Lorry Control Scheme only operates overnight and at weekends, the benefits of using it to implement cycling safety measures would be far greater as the lorries are used at other times too – very few such vehicles operate only during the day time in the week.

“It is important to reduce the risks to cyclists to encourage Londoners to make more journeys by bike.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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