TfL's Direct Vision Standard is flawed say associations; as latest change places burden on hauliers' shoulders

Volvo truck and cyclist

 

The RHA and FTA have once again raised serious concerns about TfL's Direct Vision Standard, as ratings for Euro-6 trucks were announced but in an unexpected twist the burden of finding them out was put at the door of hauliers.

The DVS sees HGVs rated in regards the direct vision available from each cab, with zero the lowest rating and five the highest. From 2020, any truck rated zero will be banned from entering London, unless they meet the requirements for a new safety permit scheme, which is still under consultation. From 2024 HGVS would require a three-star rating.

However, following the publication of interim star ratings by TfL last year that were then pulled from the DVS site, hauliers will now need to contact their truck's manufacturers directly to find out how their vehicle has fared.

A spokeswoman for TfL said: "A number of different options for operators to obtain star ratings was discussed with an expert panel on which vehicle manufacturers, trade associations and other government organisations are represented.

"The initial enquiry via manufacturers was the preferred method. As the project develops we will be investigating options for (part) automating this process."

Hauliers will need to supply information on existing fleet trucks, which could include chassis number and vehicle age, to their manufacturer who will apply an approved DVS calculation.

TfL - which has manufacturer contact details listed on its DVS site - said manufacturers are expected to receive a large number of enquiries, but will aim to respond within 10 days. Once calculated, hauliers will receive their star rating/ratings, with TfL keeping a record.

TfL confirmed to CM that that it does not hold a master list of ratings due to the large amount of variations possible, including cab height.

Asked how the rating scheme would be verified, a spokeswoman for TfL said: "A defined technical measuring protocol will be applied by the manufacturers in order to determine the star rating of the vehicle. Manufacturers will provide TfL with a record of star ratings applied to vehicles which can then be validated.

"TfL is currently developing the operating model for the permit application and issuing, and enforcement of the scheme. Mechanisms to ensure the certification provided by the manufacturers is correct will be included in this. These proposals will be subject to public consultation in early 2019."

A mess

However, reacting to the news on Twitter, RHA policy director Duncan Buchanan said he'd been speaking to manufacturers today and "it's a mess - clear answers not forthcoming".

The FTA called the mayor’s decision to press on with the DVS as flawed and “misguided”.

FTA head of urban policy Natalie Chapman said: "The whole process of implementing a Direct Vision Standard in London has been incredibly frustrating and disappointing.

"Especially, since the mayor seems determined to focus on visibility from the cab, when research shows new technology would deliver far better results.”

She added that the lengthy process in implementing the DVS is delaying the purchase of new, safer, cleaner trucks: “Operators have been forced to postpone new acquisitions, until they are given adequate detail about the star ratings and the standards required by the new safe system [TfL's catch-all for non-direct aids such as camera systems]."

The FTA is calling for urgent action to provide freight operators with more detail on TfL’s safe system and wants to see timescales co-ordinated with ULEZ plans.

"The mayor should take another look at these two schemes and delay the start dates to give organisations the chance to prepare properly. In the end he's going to make it harder and more expensive for London's residents and its businesses to get the goods and services they need.”

However, TfL's head of delivery planning, Christina Calderato, said: “The disproportionately high number of HGVs involved in fatal collisions with pedestrians and cyclists is a tragedy.

“This is why we’ve worked closely with the freight and logistics industry and vulnerable road user groups to develop the Direct Vision Standard and HGV Safety Standard Permit Scheme. Together we hope that these new safety measures will help to save many lives in the future.”

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) welcomed publication of the ratings.

Nigel Jackson, chief executive of the MPA, said: "TfL has worked with industry to design a DVS that will enable existing HGVs to continue delivering essential materials such as mineral products if safety systems are operated, reflecting representations from MPA and other organisations and companies committed to improving vulnerable road user safety.

He added: "It is critical that the detail of the planned safety system for HGVs and operators is consistent with the requirements of the CLOCs initiative operated in the construction industry. We are confident that the combination of CLOCs and DVS will help to achieve the road safety improvements which the mayor and Londoners want to see.”

The Direct Vision Standard

The DVS concept was revealed by London mayor Sadiq Khan in September 2016 as a means to improve the safety of vulnerable road users on London’s roads.

Using a star system, it rates HGVs over 12 tonnes from 0 (lowest) to 5 (highest), based on how much a HGV driver can see directly through their cab windows, as opposed to indirectly through cameras or mirrors.

TfL has said HGV blind spots are a major contributory factor in fatal collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians and DVS is intended to help address this.  It said that an 2016, 23% (14) pedestrian and 50% (4) cyclist fatalities involved an HGV, despite heavy trucks only making up 4% of road miles covered in London.

Following two consultation phases, the DVS ratings have now been finalised for Euro-6 trucks. TfL has prioritised newer trucks due to the pending Ultra Low Emission Zone rollout next year, but older ratings will follow in due course.

Last year TfL also said it would introduce a safety permit scheme to recognise hauliers that had spent time and money on camera systems, sensors and vision boosting mirrors. 

The permit would essentially allow HGVs over 12-tonnes that are zero-rated to continue operating in London past 2020 if they have certain safety equipment fitted and, potentially, if drivers have undertaken specific vulnerable road user training.

Speaking at the RHA Spring Conference last week, Calderato conceded TfL was still unsure about how much vehicle permits for the DVS would cost, as well as who will be responsible for awarding and regulating them. The DVS website promise more information.