Freight Transport Association says responsibility for cyclist safety around HGVs shouldn't rest solely with lorry operators

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The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has responded to a Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) report recommending safety considerations in the design and operation of construction vehicles by saying "it once again reinforces the need for all road users to work together and share roads safely."

The TRL 'Construction logistics and cycling safety' report outlined 12 recommendations, including that road collisions connected to building sites should be reported as if they were workplace accidents, and that contractors set out safe delivery routes which avoid narrow roads, risky junctions and schools.

It also covered specific issues within the construction industry, including very tight deadlines for drivers and recommended that 'a wider review of the blind spots in different construction vehicle types should be conducted;' stating that "a comprehensive review of vehicles used in the construction industry would greatly improve understanding of the challenges faced by drivers in relation to observing cyclists on the road".

'Sweeping conclusions'

The FTA is a member of the TfL Technical Advisory Group, which took part in the research for the TRL's report, and in 2011 worked alongside TfL, the London Cycling Campaign, IAM and the Metropolitan Police to draw up the FTA Cycling Code.

But Karen Dee, FTA Director of Policy appeared to dismiss many of the findings of the TRL report.

She told Materials Handling World Magazine: "This report analyses some important factors and will make a useful contribution to the debate. However, it makes a number of sweeping conclusions based on assumptions and we would question the practicality and appropriateness of some of the recommendations.

"It must be recognised that this report looks only at a small part of what is a complex situation. Conclusions about what these findings mean, and what actions should be taken, cannot be drawn in isolation of the wider picture. We expect the report's findings to be discussed with stakeholders before any action is taken by TfL to initiate changes to legislation. FTA will continue to engage with TfL and Government but believes that all road users have a role to play in order to truly improve road safety."

Lorries 'pose a disproportionate risk'

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.”

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.”

'Construction firms should do more'

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.