Lorries shaped like bricks, with no safety features for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, could be a thing of the past after the European Parliament voted in new truck design rules on Tuesday.
The European Parliament’s transport committee voted to give lorry manufacturers more design space for the front end, allowing a more streamlined nose that will improve fuel efficiency and help eliminate the fatal blindspots that often result in lorries killing cyclists and pedestrians.
Removing blind spots is one of the requirements of the changes to the vehicle Weights and Dimensions Directive, which will also force truck manufacturers to include a crumple zone and to make sure pedestrians and cyclists are not knocked underneath the wheels in a collision. Manufacturers will be able to improve designs straight away but Parliament wants these life-saving features to become mandatory for all new lorries by 2022.
British Cycling’s Policy Adviser, Chris Boardman, welcomed the news. Boardman visited Brussels alongside the Mayor of London’s Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, in January to call for tighter EU rules on HGV safety.
He said: “This is another step towards creating an environment on the roads that accommodates the needs and safety of cyclists. Lorries are involved in almost one in five cycle fatalities in Britain and part of the problem is dangerous cab designs.
“I hope the Department for Transport moves quickly to ensure that we have more fit for purpose lorries on Britain’s roads.”
William Todts, clean vehicles officer at campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “Today is a good day for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, hauliers and the environment. This vote brings the end of the brick-shaped cab closer. It’s a key decision that will reduce road deaths and kick-start progress on lorry CO2 emissions after 20 years of stagnation.”
However, campaigners point out the the measure faces opposition from some truck manufacturers.
Thie new regulations need to be approved by the 28 EU member states before they can become law. Campaigners accuse lorry makers of lobbying for new designs to be prohibited until 2025 to safeguard what they call ‘competitive neutrality’. They also reject additional safety requirements such as improved direct vision.
“Giving lorry makers extra cab space in return for life-saving and fuel-efficient features is a no-brainer. Europe’s governments shouldn’t let vested interests trump common sense,” said William Todts concluded.
Truck makers Skania and MAN favour the new designs, but Daimler — Europe’s biggest truck maker — is opposed because it has recently introduced new trucks.
Liberal Democrat MEP and European Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion was one of those pushing for the new regulations.
Mr Bennion said: “Making a few small changes to lorry design will save lives by getting rid of dangerous blind spots and reducing the damage caused by collisions.
“I am glad to see that these changes were approved by MEPs after months of campaigning. However it’s a shame that my Conservative colleagues did not give these proposals their full backing.
“I will now be putting pressure on them to change their minds so we can reach a consensus before the final vote in Strasbourg next month.”
Two Conservative MEPs on the committee, Jacqueline Foster and Philip Bradbourn, abstained on the final vote, while former UKIP MEP Mike Natrass voted against. British government ministers have been accused of briefing MEPs that the move might harm British manufacturing interests.
The new regulations will not allow longer ‘megatrucks’. Austria and some environmental groups had feared that moves to standardise lorry design and introduce safer cabs would be used as a Trojan horse to bring in longer trucks.
But MEPs rejected the Commission’s proposal to allow the cross-border use of longer lorries. Instead, they demanded that the Commission properly assess the impact of wider megatruck use and report back to Parliament in 2016.
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.