Since our last post we have had our requested information from Transport for London about their Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) and the (ab)use of warning stickers. We assess this response and analyse the new HGVs designed to be less dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists and showcased last week.
The TfL Response
We have been informed that:
- FORS have emailed operators to say that the regular audits of their compliance with FORS standards will include checking that they have not put stickers on the wrong vehicles. If they have, they could lose their FORS accreditation – which would stop them getting TfL contracts and have some other disadvantages. (We don’t know if this extends to replacing the old stickers with new ones on appropriate vehicles.)
Well, those audits haven’t swung into action yet. Along with the FORS members using stickers on vehicles which should never have had them (minibuses, short lorries with low cabs, taxis and cars) illustrated, a short period of time in inner London today (27/02/2015) reveals these FORS members with stickers on the wrong vehicles:
UK Power Network (positioning off-side wing mirror properly might help)
FloGas London Borough of Brent
And this photo of a car belonging to FORS member Apex Lifts was sent to me:
We also have the problem of TfL’s own vehicles working for London Underground and London Buses (shown here):
TfL is not actually a member of their FORS, but should it be so difficult for someone in TfL to expect it to behave in accordance with the FORS criteria for stickers?
2. Our contact couldn’t give us a URL on FORS’ website to refer operators to. (Some people working for FORS members, most obviously transport planners/engineers working for London Boroughs, want to be able to refer colleagues in fleet management to the FORS criteria for stickers).
3. Our contact pointed out – as we knew already – that FORS has no jurisdiction over non-FORS members, who can buy stickers from other suppliers. (Incidentally, that’s a good reason for this issue to have not arisen in the first place). However, members of the public could refer operators to a FORS website explaining why FORS is now trying to make sure that no stickers should be on any vehicles other than buses or HGVs, and that even on those vehicles the appropriate wording should be used. Above all, the reasons for this – particularly not having stickers of any sort on minibuses, cars, and taxis – must be explained, as most freight operators won’t understand otherwise.
Our view is that if TfL is serious about cycling as a mode of transport, and the safety of road users near lorries, this should be done.
Meanwhile here are some non-FORS members spotted today in a short period of time in inner London with vehicles which should not have stickers:
A Tyrefix-UK van being tailgated by:
A Brandon Tool Hire lorry with apparently adequate nearside wing mirror and low cab, and a minibus. And some time ago one of my favourites (apologies if stickers have since been removed):
As stated in our previous post, this is not the main issue with regard to lorry safety in London – but it is indicative of Transport for London’s readiness – or lack of it – to tackle this and other safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists.
Safer construction industry vehicles?…
Last week a major exhibition showcased new lorry designs for the construction industry. There is a particular problem with construction industry HGVs: vehicles like tipper trucks have been disproportionately involved in cyclist deaths compared to other HGVs, and TfL has taken some steps towards addressing this through support for CLOCS.
Below you can see just some of the vehicle designs which make it easier for lorry drivers to be able to see around them and – often less remarked on – smaller gaps between the vehicle body and the road surface, reducing the chances of pedestrians and cyclists being dragged under lorry wheels.
O’Donovan waste Mercedes-Benz design
Smaller blind spots
So does this indicate that TfL are properly addressing the HGV safety problem? A lot of what was said is encouraging: Sir Peter Hendy (Commissioner of Transport for London) supported law enforcement to stop unfit drivers, “relentlessly hounding” bad operators, committing to reducing motor traffic capacity on new highway infrastructure for cyclists, looking at changing the concentration of freight in the morning rush hour (while aware of the problem that this can be a muck-shifting exercise which pushes freight on to people outside these hours), and above all:
“TfL are working towards a point where we’ll say if you want to work on one of our sites it’s got to be one of these – we’re not very far away from this. We’ll do everything we can to make this happen.”
Other speakers showed an awareness of issues beyond the traditional highway authority thought envelope: moving the construction industry’s health and safety focus on to road risk, increased rigour in procurement criteria for freight operators, pushing for more sophisticated technology on vehicles, both new and for retro-fit, retiming lorry delivery, etc
All of which looks good: moves in the right direction prompted not least by the activities by our friends and partners Cynthia Barlow (Roadpeace) and Kate Cairns (See Me Save Me) Unfortunately, there are important problems to be considered, and our duty is to do just that.
The first problem is specifically about construction industry vehicles (such as tipper trucks). When considering Sir Peter Hendy’s comments above, we have a commitment towards a requirement for the safest lorry design to be a feature of HGVs on construction sites operating for TfL sites: what about all the others in London? And when will this be required?
…and lorries in general
We also note that in the concluding comments to the conference by CLOCS chairman Brian Weatherly, he said, “When will CLOCS’ work be completed? Volvo has Vision 2020 – no one will be killed by a Volvo HGV in 2020. It would be an excellent goal for everyone in CLOCS to adopt. If we could achieve that we would know CLOCS has done its job.”
Here at RDRF we have something of a general problem with Volvo. We point out the adverse effects on other road users of drivers feeling that they have to less to worry about because of increased crashworthiness of their vehicle. And Volvo have historically been synonymous with greater car crashworthiness.
But let’s just focus on events last year: for this sorry story of blocking the introduction of safer lorries read this in The Times. Essentially, under pressure from Renault and, yes, Volvo, the French and Swedish governments blocked manufacturers from implementing more aerodynamic lorry designs.
Such redesign also benefits cyclist and pedestrian safety by having lower cabs with more driver visibility, and skirting and/or lower vehicle and cab bodies to reduce chances of being dragged under lorry wheels.
Since these lorries won’t be on the roads now until after 2020, one does rather wonder about Volvo’s Vision 2020.
An aside: The recent history of lorry design
At this point I should refer to a meeting I had at Transport for London (with my colleague from the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group). This was at a time (I think 2002) before The Times started pushing for cyclist safety, when we had to fight hard to get anybody to take notice of the HGVs/Cyclists issue. We were met by, among others, a freight industry representative, who explained the 10-year cycle of lorry design, manufacture, sale and use.
Now, it was a while ago, and I may have got the details wrong (and they may have been inaccurately conveyed to us) but my understanding was this: Lorry manufacturers take about ten years to design, implement and manufacture a model, and this will then be bought and used by operators for another ten years before they buy the next model. We were told – as I recall – that the next design/manufacture cycle would start in 2010. New models would come in then, and by 2020 almost all HGVs would have the safer and more aerodynamic characteristics shown above.
But they didn’t. The episode recounted above – where RDRF joined others to lobby the EU to allow (that is just allow, let alone make mandatory) safer lorry design – indicates that the cycle we are now in ignored all the evidence about the importance of lorry design for cyclist and pedestrian safety in the 1990s and early 2000s, as well as the desire of operators to have more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The HGV problem in context
We have to say something else about the HGV issue. There is a specific problem of safety posed by HGVs for other road users, and in urban areas this is a particular problem for pedestrians and cyclists. I have dealt with the various ways this problem should be addressed here as follows:
We have been working on the safety issue for cyclists and pedestrians posed by HGVs, specifically in cities, since the early 1990s. There is a range of solutions which require implementing, namely:
Highway engineering which could eliminate potential collisions of all severities, and also do so with collisions involving all motor vehicles and create safer space. This is restricted to specific locations, and is less relevant for pedestrians, so attention is also needed to engineering HGVs so that drivers can be aware of who and what is around them. HGVs should also be engineered so that it becomes far more difficult (or impossible) for pedestrians or cyclists to be crushed, by skirting HGVs or otherwise reducing the gap between road surface and the body of the vehicle. Safety standards on HGVs can also be enforced by the police. Swift and high quality post-crash investigation, and the threat of deterrent sentencing for unsafe HGV operation are required. Construction sites and operators can be subject to appropriate procurement procedures to push forward relevant measures. Additional technologies such as black box recorders and pedestrian/cyclist-activated vehicle braking systems should be introduced.
HGV driver training is necessary, although low down the list of priorities. We are believers in cycle training, but the essential issue is reducing danger at source – from HGVs (particularly construction industry HGVs) which are currently unfit for purpose in a city. Not all of the million people who sometimes cycle in London can be reached or – even if experienced and careful – expected to avoid HGVs that hit them from behind or overtake and turn left. Even where a cyclist or pedestrian is careless or ignorant (as we all are on occasion) they do not deserve to be punished with death or serious injury. After all, motorists have their carelessness accommodated by highway and vehicle engineering – why shouldn’t cyclists or pedestrians?
For further discussion see the post by Bill Chidley here with RDRF comments below.
As at least half the cyclists killed in London are now killed in incidents where they go under the wheels of HGVs, plainly this is a specific issue for sustainable transport and road danger reduction in urban areas and London in particular. The relatively small number of vehicles, and the professional nature of their drivers, mean that there is less excuse for not dealing with this problem. However, it is worth remembering its place within the spectrum of problems, even specifically for cyclists.
The table is based on Table 1 of TfL’s current Cycle Safety Action Plan: Ratio of cyclist KSI (Killed and Serious Injury) injury and collision involvement by mode share (2010-12)
|Other vehicle involved||Average yearly number of KSI collisions involving a cyclist (2010 to 2012)||Ratio of involvement to mode share||%age involvement|
|Light Goods Vehicles||176||0.9||11.1|
|Taxi/ private hire||75||4||4.7|
|Medium and Heavy Goods Vehicles (over 3.5T)||74||1.4||4.7|
|TOTAL KSIs on average per year 2010 – 2012||1588|
Source: STATS19 and Department for Transport data
Whoops! When I copied out this table above I thought something looked bit weird – namely the number of KSIs per year is about 3 times bigger than it should be . A look at the Pedal Cycle Casualties fact sheet produced annually by TfL look at says that KSIs in 2010 were 467, in 2011 were 571, and in 2012 were 671. That gives an average of 570 per year, not 1588.
I’ll be contacting TfL to mention this. I find it interesting that nobody else seems to have spotted this.
However what I am really interested in here stays the same – namely the small proportion of cyclist KSI’s which involve the two heavier freight classifications. Interesting that nobody else has picked this up. (RD)
UPDATE: 16TH March.
I received this e-mail from TfL:
“I have received some more detail on table 1 in the Cycle Safety Action Plan. The numbers shown are for the total number of 2010-2012 and not the average as it is currently mis-labelled. The numbers have been checked and they are correct, because the data is at the vehicle level they differ from collision or casualty figures. The correct title should be “Number of KSI collisions involving a cyclist (2010 to 2012)”. I will arrange for this to be corrected on the published pdf to prevent further confusion.
Thank you very much for highlighting this error and helping to ensure the best data possible is available.”
We are happy to help – it’s sad that nobody else noticed.
The fact is that less than 5% of cyclist KSIs (98% of which are not deaths) involve lorries. A similar fraction exists for slight injuries, and probably near misses. (The proportions for pedestrians are even lower). Lorry danger is therefore a highly visible iceberg tip of danger on the roads in London, to cyclists and to other road users. And of that, danger from tipper trucks – essentially industrial equipment primarily used off-road – is just a part.
Transport for London has made an important step forward in addressing lorry danger in London through its support for CLOCS. Our concern is that while impressive efforts can be made with high profile issues (the “big and shiny” syndrome), its bureaucracy can get wrong-footed on a more mundane and routine issue. While the issue of stickers on wrong types of vehicle is of little importance in itself – although the large numbers of inappropriately stickered vehicles on London streets do send an unhelpful message, especially to drivers – it has reminded us about more general problems TfL has on sustainable transport in particular and cyclist safety in general.
We have spent plenty of time on www.rdrf.org.uk drawing attention to TfL’s wrong and dangerous targets for road safety , its inability to measure danger on the road properly, and its poor record on cyclist safety apart from some work on lorry danger . Then we have all the usual transport establishment issues about the methods of cost-benefit analysis (see these useful comments) ; bias in law enforcement ; the inequitable costs (to the user) of motoring compared to other modes, particularly cycling; a failure to consider areas – such as adequately accessible bicycles, cycling equipment or secure and convenient home parking – which affect the take-up of cycling; and “ road safety” ideology which blurs the difference of rule-breaking between motorised and non-motorised road users.
Partially addressing the use of one type of the most threatening type of vehicle involved in half the cyclist deaths (but less than one in twenty injuries) is welcome.
But only a very small part of what needs to be done.
Dr Robert Davis and Colin McKenzie March 2nd 2015
Note on statistics March 4th