The proposal – launched on Friday (22 January 2016) – is being floated as an extension to TfL’s (Transport for London) Safer Lorry Scheme and only a few vehicles where retrofitting is deemed impossible would be exempt.
“Improving visibility for HGV drivers is really important, but there are many different ways to achieve this,” insists FTA head of national and regional policy Christopher Snelling (pictured).
“We are disappointed that the Mayor has chosen to focus on just one option without clear evidence that this is the best way to deliver the desired outcome,” he adds.
Meanwhile, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett says: “We doubt if London has the power to impose such a requirement as EU law sets out the specification parameters for vehicles travelling across Europe.”
And he adds@ “The design of lorry cabs is governed by EU-wide regulation and the vehicles are supplied by global manufacturers.”
For the FTA’s Snelling, there are other issues: “Side panel have limitations – for example, if the vehicle is carrying a second crew member or equipment then the view may be obscured,” he says.
Snelling complains that in recent years the Mayor and TfL have already made additional mirrors, cameras and sensors a priority for HGVs. “Now suddenly this one panel is the answer – and those who have already eliminated this blind spot through technology will be forced to adapt their vehicles again to address the same problem.”
FTA estimates that the cost to the UK’s HGV fleet operators of retrofitting vehicles with transparent panels in nearside doors would be around £280 million, and questions whether this is the best use of “such a huge investment on safety”.
Snelling concedes that increasing direct visibility from HGVs is a priority but says FTA’s advice to members is to explore the use of vehicles with reduced blind spots in their fleets.
FTA wants to see London support this process now by offering a discount on the London Congestion Charge to HGVs that have cabs with blind spots designed out.
“Wholly redesigned cabs with lower seats can eliminate far more blind spots – including those that affect pedestrian collisions as well as cyclists,” asserts Snelling.
“But they are much more expensive – partly because so few are made. London can now help make these vehicles a part of the mainstream by allowing operators to offset the cost of buying them against a reduced congestion charge.”
“We will be responding to the consultation in some detail,” comments RHA’s Burnett.
“However this proposal, coming in the last days of Boris Johnson’s mayoral term, lacks any of the analysis expected from a responsible government, and will be greeted with frustration and anger across the haulage industry.”
The consultation asks Londoners whether they support the proposal in principle and if it should be enforced through an extension to the Safer Lorry Scheme or higher charges for non-compliant lorries under the Congestion Charge or Low Emission Zone regulations.
It also asks whether the restrictions should be full-time, part-time or route-specific. The public consultation will be followed by a formal consultation on finalised statutory proposals.