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Call for route restrictions as Longer HGVs damage roads, property and endanger cyclists

Transport experts write to Transport Secretary to plead for routes for longer HGVs to be restricted

A current trial of longer HGVs should be restricted in urban centres on safety grounds, according to transport experts.

Both the Campaign for Better Transport and the Technical Advisers’ Group have appealed to Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, for local authorities to designate specific routes that can be used by the new lorries, protecting vulnerable road users and protect road surfaces and properties on the routes.

The lorries, which can be up to 18.55m long, have also been found to damage street furniture and other parked vehicles on urban roads, due to a greater tail swing and more pronounced driver blind spots.

As well as proving dangerous for those around them, the lorries also force local authorities to spend more money on repairing the damage they cause.

As part of its initiative, the Campaign for Better Transport has released the following video, and it says:

This video demonstrates the very live threat of even longer (25 metre) HGVs coming from Europe as the legislation on HGV dimensions is currently being revised in Brussels.

The two different HGV lengths are linked however, because the UK Government has allowed these trials of 18.55m trucks, even though this configuration is not currenlty allowed permanently across the EU.

So because the UK Government wants these 18.55m trucks allowed permanently in the UK it risks opening up the whole debate about lengths of HGVs and thus allowing mega trucks of 25 metre mega trucks at the same time.

The UK Government buckled to road haulage industry pressure when it allowed these 18.55m HGVs so there is a real threat that it will not resist the lobbying from the big logistics operators next time. 

The reality is that bigger trucks might save the industry money but society pays through more fatal collisions, more road congestion and more more pollution.

Philippa Edmunds, Campaign for Better Transport, commented: “The freight industry needs access to their depots on urban roads within towns and cities to be able to function efficiently, however many urban junctions would simply not be able to accommodate these vehicles, forcing them to mount kerbs, traffic islands or enter adjacent lanes when turning.

"Therefore, it is imperative that the longer HGVs are restricted to designated local authority routes agreed by the local authority and the operator.”

Martin Sachs, secretary of TAG National Transport Committee, said: “We are looking to work with the Department for Transport to find a way to minimise the impact of the introduction of longer trailers particularly off strategic roads.

"We need to ensure that there are no increased risks to the safety of other road users, and that roadside property and highway infrastructure are protected.

"We need to ensure the costs of these measures are borne by the industry, which will benefit from the introduction of longer trailers, as highway authorities have no slack in their budgets."

The letter to Mr McLoughlin reads:

Many urban roads in the UK are not about to accommodate such large vehicles, forcing them to perform movements that put other, more vulnerable road users at risk, such as:

  • Mounting kerbs or traffic islands
  • Swinging over kerbs, traffic islands or adjacent lanes
  • Entering adjacent lanes, parking bays or footways

As well as the risk to cyclists and pedestrians, lorries often damage parked cars, street furniture or buildings when travelling on unsuitable roads.

Government figures show that existing HGVs are four times more likely than cars to be involved in fatal collisions on local roads, but the Department for Transport has permitted a ten year trial of 17.60m and 18.55m (60ft) lorries, which started in January 2012. The current limit is 16.5m (54ft).

A demonstration of the new longer vehicle at the Department for Transport’s testing facility in Millbrook Bedfordshire showed the rear tail-swing when turning corners was significantly greater than normal HGVs, up to 1.3 m greater under normal road conditions, and would occur within the driver’s blind spot, posing a significant threat to other road users, especially cyclists and pedestrians.

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Matt eaton | 10 years ago

In the UK we have it all wrong, and it's not really the transport industry to blame as they simply fulfill a specific demand.

We have large superstores located in town and city centres meaning that large delivery vehicles are required to service them with no option other than to pass though urban areas on minor roads. Such superstores should be on the outskirts of our towns with direct links to both major roads (or rail/water) for deliveries and infrastructure suited to smaller vehicles (including cycles) and pedestrians. In other words customers from the town would typically use separate infrastructure to go shopping compared to the vehicles making deliveries. Not enough thought is given to these factors when planning permission is granted for these big shops which should be pushed further away from our town centres.

I'm in favor of all HGVs being restructed to A roads and motorways with exceptions being made where necesary, like a one-off delivery of a static caravan to a rural campsite. Such exceptions would need to be applied for in advance and approved.

Guyz2010 | 10 years ago

The rear trailer swing out is frightening. Yes I can see these working but they need to be restricted in use to minimum UK trunk 'A' roads and within say 5 miles of a motorway. These jamming up small towns just won't work. The congestion at junction they will cause will out rule them.
Then will the hauliers pay for all the highway restriction signs across the entire UK stating "no extra long vehicles on this route".
Nah it will never happen.
I noted the train lines in the theres an idea, trains on tracks! That could task off Dr Beeching.

hexhome replied to Guyz2010 | 10 years ago

Guyz2010 The rear 'swing out' is not as dangerous as the cut in. The cut in on steered rear axles is reduced. It is cut in which is lethal to cyclists. This improvement is negated by the extra length, but it is untrue to state 'The rear trailer swing out is frightening.' Yes all vehicles have a degree of rear swing out which is a concern but it is difficult to see where this would lead to injury collisions. They are certainly responsible for damage collisions as any warehouse manager will be aware of.

A V Lowe | 10 years ago

Hexhome The problem is that we have these trucks out on the road in substantial numbers, BEFORE the tests at Millbrook showed the major issues which can occur when these trucks are operated in confined areas.

When the suggestion to try out bike racks on the front of buses was promoted there was no suggestion of a pilot project doing this with even a 5 year exemption - it had to be tested before any on-road trials took place, and the results (the only time ENCAP standards were applied to a commercial vehicle to date) showed enough issues on damage and harm to stop any options of asking for a pilot project.

Yet for 15 metre rigid coaches the case was pushed through because of a big industry 'interest' (ie financial benefit) in getting the longer vehicles in service (typically 65 seats vice 49 for the same coach). They have to have steering rear axles, and have had a fatal crash because of a failure of that technology, now known about and dealt with. With the increased length came a change in the full-lock rear outswing for a rigid vehicle from 0.8m to 1.2m (so you might notice that coach back seems just a bit closer as it turns when you pass - it may well be the case)

Likewise we have a substantial number of these semi-trailers on test (DfT has a list on their website, and several operators are trying to 'buy-up' allocations that others are not using - also I suspect, some shadow allocations, where a retailer uses a logistics operator and both have allocations for operating longer semi trailers). Word has filtered in that one depot with the larger semi-trailers had a run of 'bashes' with the longer units, possibly being moved around the yard, although obviously they are not likely to make a great show of this.

Feedback from other Class 1(E) drivers might come through informally though. The semi-trailers require steered rear axles and details are discussed in the paper Bear in mind here that Jim from Cambridge Cycling Campaign actually wrote the original program for swept path of large vehicles when he was working for TRL and was thus a very appropriate person to be present for the testing at Millbrook. That outswing looks mighty drastic and does depend on the sophisticated rear wheel steering (at slow speeds) and its phasing out (at higher speeds) - something which didn't happen on the coach that crashed, causing the vehicle to become unstable, when cornering at speed.

jova54 | 10 years ago

There is no justifiable economic reason for these vehicles to be in urban centres. It doesn't matter how much longer or heavier they are than the existing fleet they are too big. They should be restricted to motorways and major A roads only.
Even if they imposed access restrictions on these vehicles there will always be the driver who believes their sat-nav and goes down a road which is impassable because of width or height restrictions, like the one I encountered on Thursday evening in Guildford. Having ignored a height restriction sign at a junction he drove a mile down a road only to get stuck at a railway bridge. He then held up rush hour traffic for nearly an hour while he tried to turn his vehicle around.
We have had 50 years of turning urban centres into road systems to take progressively larger and larger trucks. As soon as the changes have bedded in along comes the freight industry and says; "That wasn't so bad was it? But what we'd really like to do is have even bigger trucks"; and like idiots the DoT rolls over and gives in.
The road systems in urban centres should be restricted to pedestrians, bikes, cars, vans and LGVs.
Vehicle this size should be used as feeders and the money wasted on widening roads and junctions and repairing the damage they do, spent on infrastructure that has delivery and distribution hubs to service the local community.

SteppenHerring replied to jova54 | 10 years ago
jova54 wrote:

...Even if they imposed access restrictions on these vehicles there will always be the driver who believes their sat-nav and goes down a road which is impassable because of width or height restrictions, like the one I encountered on Thursday evening in Guildford. Having ignored a height restriction sign at a junction he drove a mile down a road only to get stuck at a railway bridge. He then held up rush hour traffic for nearly an hour while he tried to turn his vehicle around...

Often on my commute I see this. There's a short stretch of road only just wide enough for two cars. It's signposted (Max 7.5 tonne) at each end but almost every other day I will see a bigger vehicle trying to get down there and clogging the whole thing up so nobody can move.

I know that HGV specific satnav is more expensive so many outfits skimp and use car units, but really the police should be clamping down on these operators.

English Dave | 10 years ago

I am a cyclist, have been for about 53 years. I have raced, on and off road, commuted and am now a leisure rider. I also drive an articulated lorry and have recently driven one of the extra long vehicles now on trial in the UK.
This article is completely misleading as it concentrates on vehicles that are not in fact included in the trial. It miss quotes the maximum lengths and weights being trialled . The video shows vehicles with 2 trailers which are also not being trialled.
The current articulated lorry maximum is one 45ft long trailer and a gross of 44 tonnes.
The trial involves increasing the maximum trailer length to 50ft with no weight increase. These trailers have steered rear wheels.
From a driving point of view, these trailers follow the unit better, they tend not to cut corners as much as current trailers, however, the amount of 'swing' at the rear is worrying. I have only driven a short distance in a rural area but I can see that in an urban setting the overhang swing could be a problem. The company I work for only use this trailer on well tried specific deliveries and so far there have been no incidents.
The general trend for the media to vilify all large vehicles in use in built up areas is worrying. As a cyclist I know that I have the right to use the road and to be treated with respect by other road users. I also know that I am vulnerable and if I am in collision with any other vehicle I will come second. As a driver of any vehicle I try to respect all other road users especially the most vulnerable. The truck I drive is fitted with 6 mirrors, proximity sensors and a video camera but there are still blind spots. We are all responsible for each others safety but as cyclists we also need to be aware of the danger we could be riding into. Trucks are only there to do a job, everything we buy at some point is delivered by truck. We all need better awareness education what ever type of road user you are, pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist, car or truck driver.

Topcat | 10 years ago

I'm for these trailers. There are many loads hauled across the UK which are limited by their volume rather than the weight. A larger trailer allows a lot more to be moved, often not meeting the current gross vehicle weight which will remain the same! No one likes being passed by an articulated truck when cycling, but I cannot see a couple of extra metres in vehicle length making any difference, especially if it can help towards lowering vehicle numbers; or at least slowing an increase.

Given the current caution that has been shown by the Government and DoT, I can't see why the limitations and safety implications of these larger trailers cannot be considered with the next 10 years.

The video linked to in the article really is irrelevant to the current situation as the UK is not considering using road train style vehicles. Even if it were that video appeared to be poorly cited and heavily biased.

hexhome | 10 years ago

As a cycling HGV driver I spend a large amount of time promoting cycle awareness to HGV drivers as well as smoothing differences. Articles like this which show pictures and video which are NOT related to current legislation does not help my cause! This is scaremongering pure and simple. This video illustrates the actual type of vehicle being trialled

There are some aspects of the new design which may actually improve safety for cyclists however that is a different discussion and I have no axe to grind either way.

Facts are being manipulated against cyclists all the time - New Forest for example. Maybe you felt that you wished to redress the balance?

jasecd | 10 years ago

A ten year trial? How many vulnerable road users will be killed during this trial?

Absolutely unbelievable - all the evidence suggests that that the larger the vehicle, the increased risk of death. The DoT should be trying to reduce vehicle size not increase it. But of course longer HGV's means lower operating costs and profit above all else is Britain today.

hexhome replied to jasecd | 10 years ago

Jasecd, I'm not certain that the evidence does point to that in the case of cycle related collisions. Most recent tragedies have involved smaller HGVs. This is simply because in an urban environment there are more smaller than larger HGVs.

Whilst I have no particular wish to see larger lorries on our roads, it does seem to make some sense. There is no proposed weight increase so mass will remain unchanged, only volume increased. This will result in fewer lorries on the roads, which would certainly have a benefit in terms of health and safety.

I am a cyclists first and an HGV driver second, I would be one of the first to campaign against them if I thought that they threatened myself and my children. I would much rather see energy put into campaigning for issues which would improve our safety such as compulsory Cycle Awareness training for HGV drivers as part of the statutory DCPC.

oozaveared replied to jasecd | 10 years ago

In general I tend to agree but I think the most hazardous vehicles in the road are not the very large and professionally driven juggernauts but the badly driven knackered old dumper truck and skip lorries who always seem to be driven quite agressively. So I agree about bigger lorries and remain to be convinced about these but I would far rather we focused on the ones that do the most killing which are not necessarily the very large ones.

Critchio | 10 years ago

Watch the video. These monster trucks have no place on our roads. We are plagued by LGV's in my part of the country where its a fair distance to a motorway and main dual carriageway. Over the last 20 years the usage of trucks has sky-rocketed to silly levels. With most trucks now adhering to their vehicle class speed limit of 40mph on A roads, these roads have become a frustrating grind for motorists stuck behind as many as 6 trucks in a line all riding bumper to bumper and no way of passing. Its an increased danger for cyclists too. The level of trucks is ridiculous.

I've always felt that the government needs to get more freight on the railways and more trucks off the road and they need to build rail infrastructure where it is required.

These monstrous trucks are death traps and they have no place here.

hexhome replied to Critchio | 10 years ago

Critchio, your points are well made but unfortunately until we reject our supermarket society, they are here to stay. Rail freight is near maximum capacity, and new rail structure is hotly opposed.

Unfortunately the law currently fails to differentiate between A class trunk roads and C class rural lanes, so the 40 mph limit must remain.

The video you have watched and are encouraging others to watch does NOT in any way relate to the current UK trials.

No, I am not a supporter of the logistics industry, though I do drive an HGV. I want to see real improvements for our safety as cyclists. The problem here is that scaremongering with erroneous facts will not meet this aim.

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