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HGV blind spot safety systems require independent assessment says Lord Attlee

Proposes mandatory sensor system to protect cyclists

Former government transport minister, Lord Attlee, has called on the government to research and set out minimum standards for HGV blind spot safety devices, reports The Times. Emphasising that zero cyclist casualties should be the target, he also proposed a ‘tag-and-beacon system’ which would warn drivers of nearby cyclists.

Lord Attlee – who is the grandson of Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee – entered the House of Lords in 1992 following a career in commercial vehicle recovery and repair. Raising the subject of cyclist fatalities involving HGVs, he said he had been first on the scene on one occasion and witnessed a near miss on another. “I am passionate about road safety and I believe that we should be going for zero for this type of accident,” he said.

Attlee said that while TfL had made imaginative use of a traffic regulation order concerning mirrors and sideguards, this wasn’t enough. “Mirrors work only if drivers invariably use them and if cyclists do not enter the truck’s blind spot or danger areas in an inadvisable way.”

He therefore proposed a system where lorries are fitted with infrared emitters, while bikes are fitted with detectors that alert the lorry driver when a cyclist is nearby. “This is known as a tag-and-beacon system, and a very similar system has already been marketed which uses RFID (radio frequency identification).”

Attlee did however concede that there were difficulties in implementing such a system.

“These systems do have the difficulty that the cycles would have to be fitted with a tag, which could be a problem, but that has to be balanced against the technical advantages. It would be necessary to fit only certain types of high-risk HGVs, in particular construction vehicles. My understanding is that the concept would work, but the difficulty is in its implementation.”

Attlee also called for independent assessment of the wide range of HGV blind spot safety technology now available.

“Products said to be designed to save lives should be independently evaluated and compared. The operators of HGVs would then have all the facts they need to make informed choices and know that the safety equipment they are investing in offers value for money and is effective. I am sad to say that this is not the case.

“Unlike every other safety device in the workplace, those being sold to HGV operators do not have to meet stringent performance criteria or undergo rigorous testing. A robust and consistent process needs to be established independently to evaluate HGV safety products against the functional and performance criteria set.”

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