London construction firms lack awareness of danger lorries pose to cyclists, says TRL report

Industry also criticised for not applying same emphasis to health & safety on the road as they do on-site

by Simon_MacMichael   February 1, 2013  

Cement lorry in London © Simon MacMichael.jpg

Vehicle operators in the construction industry in London have scant awareness of the danger their lorries pose to cyclists despite increasing media coverage of such incidents. That’s one of the key findings of a hard hitting report published last month by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), which also found that in contrast to the strong focus in on-site risk reduction within the construction industry, there is little acknowledgment of road risk off-site.

The London Cycling Campaign and others have regularly highlighted that lorries in general pose a disproportionate risk to cyclists – HGVs account for just 5 per cent of the city’s traffic, but half of all fatalities of bike riders.

However, the TRL report, commissioned by Transport for London (TfL), shows that it is construction lorries in particular that present by far the biggest danger, involved in more than a third of all deaths of cyclists in London in 2010 and 2011.

In the latter year, in seven of the nine cyclist fatalities involving a lorry, it was specifically a construction industry vehicle that was involved.

According to the TRL, other main findings of the study include “that road risk tends to be viewed as less important than general health and safety risk in the construction industry, and that clients and principal contractors on construction projects tend not to take responsibility for road risk in the same way that they do for general health and safety risk.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the report found that paying contractors per load, as still often happens in the industry, was not a particularly significant factor in the likelihood of a lorry being involved in a collision with a cyclist.

That practice has regularly been singled out by campaigners as one that leads to increased risk due to drivers seeking to get jobs done as quickly as possible so they can move onto the next one.

However, the TRL said that there was “no specific evidence was found that that paying drivers in this manner changes the amount of work drivers attempt to do, or the time in which they attempt to complete the work.”

What was found to have an effect on risk levels, however, was the pressure on drivers to meet pre-arranged delivery slots at construction sites, something TRL says the industry acknowledges, as well as the “transitory nature” of building sites – in other words, once construction is completed on a major site, say, construction moves onto the next one elsewhere.

According to TRL, what that means is drivers have little opportunity to learn where on a route there might be most risk of conflict with cyclists and plan ahead, perhaps by choosing an alternative route that avoids such locations, which the report’s authors say is the easiest way to prevent collisions.

The report also found that road safety statistics were typically excluded from the records that construction firms have to maintain, again leading to reduced perception of risk, and that take-up of safety initiatives such as the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) and Construction Logistics Plans (CLPs) were not as high – nor indeed were they considered as seriously – as they should be.

Drivers in the construction industry were also found to be particularly prone to error, partly as a result of their high workload, with cognitive task analysis undertaken by the TRL revealing “a number of points of possible failure, most of which are associated with a breakdown in visual awareness, and many of which may take place before the driver and cyclist arrive at a junction.

“Many of the factors identified in other findings (for example driver pressure to meet time slots, and view from the cab) will make errors more likely.”

TRL added that while “total blind spots are likely to be rare, visibility of cyclists in some areas around construction vehicles is still poor.”

The report – you can download the full version here or a summary here, although in either case, registration is required – made 12 recommendations under the following headings:

1: HSE [the Health & Safety Executive] should extend the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) to include on-road collisions

2: Adherence to a nationally recognised standard on work- related road safety (such as the ISO39001 standard on road traffic safety management) should be promoted

3: HSE should include off-site safety in the Construction Phase Plan (mandatory under the CDM [Construction Design & Management] regulations)

4: Existing channels should be utilised more effectively to raise awareness of road risk within the construction industry

5: CLP [Construction Logistic Plan] guidance should be updated by TfL and its use promoted throughout London

6: Vehicle manufacturers should work to improve vehicle and mirror design

7: A wider review of the blind spots in different construction vehicle types should be conducted

8: Principal contractors and clients should use more realistic delivery time slots

9: CLPs must include the definition of safer routes to construction sites

10: Further research should be conducted to understand the effects of pay per load contracts

11: The vehicle type ‘construction vehicle’ should be included in Stats19

12: Recommendations 1 to 11 need to be addressed by stakeholders from across the industry, working with relevant regulatory bodies when necessary.

Meanwhile, LCC has revealed that 13 of London’s 33 councils have now undertaken to provide cyclist awareness training to their lorry drivers, compared to just one 12 months ago.

LCC is urging cyclists in the capital to ensure their local councils adhere to the provisions of its Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling pledge.

 

4 user comments

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I think this report really want to say most drivers of these vehicles have no understanding of the death and destruction they can cause with these vehicles. Most also seem to have scant regard for human life.

From working within an industry that uses these drivers there is defo a more than lower intelligence with them.

posted by gazzaputt [178 posts]
1st February 2013 - 16:06

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Let's add a few more to that list

Section 78 of the Highways Act 1835 should be revised and clarified to include road haulage vehicles (oh and the 20/- and 40/- fines in para 1 should be updated to take account of 1967 Criminal Justice Act, as latter parts already have been).

Here a most important detail is that there is a vanguard/banksman present when high risk movements are being carried out, and the owners details should be clearly visible on a panel which can be read from the footway.

Now more seriously - simply reduce the risk

The level of risk from construction traffic can be greatly mitigated if the need for such traffic to travel excessive mileages on inappropriate streets, can be addressed. The Frances Crick site at St Pancras was moving c.3000 tons per day of excavated material using 40-50 trucks making around 150 round trips of 63 miles to Pitsea, when a railway siding which could have taken the daily amount out with 2 - 3 trains per day was less than 1Km away, and performed this function during the work on St Pancras International Station. The Francis Crick site had this operation running for over 2 months. The concrete pour for The Shard used 30 concrete 'jiggers' each running with 3 shifts of drivers around the clock for around a week (I suspect the spate of cyclist HGV incidents around St Thomas's may have been during the intensive phase of truck movements linked to this site).

The River Thames is navigable for barges of up to 2000T capacity up to Battersea, and was used by 1000T barges up to Brentford Docks when I was living in London. A concrete batching plant on a barge, supplied with aggregates by river could service concrete deliveries in the city centre and reduce the truck ton-miles on London's Streets drastically.

Many large projects could put their waste and imported materials on rail or river, and make big savings on truck hire, reduce the pollution footprint (noise &c) and reduce the substantially greater damage caused to streets by the 4-axle 'workhorse' trucks. A DfT report indicates that a 44T articulated truck causes less damage, costs less to operate, and carries 50% more payload - but the industry standard is the 4-axle rigid tipper - the killer truck.

TfL Freight Unit (now that it is re-formed) should be charged and funded to deliver consolidation and loading points.

(Note that there is a container loading wharf off Lower Thames Street already operational, but only available at certain states of the tide - this should be made suitable of use at all states of the tide).

Then design out the major fatal flaw

The position of the truck driver perched up high and with massive visibility problems regarding pedestrians and cyclists, can be changed. Trucks with walk in cabs and drivers' eye-level almost in line with cyclists' eye level are built (in the UK too). Currently there is a price premium because they use Chomalloy steel for the chassis and automatic gearboxes, and do not have a high volume production line. Such trucks would transform the visibility issues currently experienced with high cab vehicles.

Putting the bulk muck-shift etc on to rail & river and buying trucks which have good visibility for cyclists would be delivered if the political and corporate commitment was there, possibly nudges by legislation requiring large projects to move this way and reduce the damaging impact of moving such tonnages by road.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [468 posts]
1st February 2013 - 17:09

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I always think that getting the HSE more involved is the fastest way forward with regard to concentrating the collective mind on commercial/company driver improvement. A fine or some points on your licence pales slightly compared with explaining to your boss why the whole operation will be getting audited by HSE inspectors tomorrow.....

posted by CarlosFerreiro [54 posts]
1st February 2013 - 17:20

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Carrot rather than stick: There would be no quicker incentive than including a zero-casualties target for transport sub-contractors - they are probably incentivised for on-site safety targets, so let's extend that to all activities related to the project. The Government could start with all public service contracts.

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [358 posts]
1st February 2013 - 19:07

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