What is the issue?
You would be hard pressed to find any type of road user who does not find the presence of heavy goods vehicles (HGV’s) somewhat intimidating. In the last 3 years in London, lorries were involved in 70% of cycling deaths.
Design error, not operator error
Due to the design of some HGV vehicles, the drivers can often be 3-meteres above the road level when they are sat in the driving cab. As well as this, the structure of the vehicles means that there are multiple blind spots that leave cyclists in an extremely vulnerable position.
Without additional safety measures being implemented, the drivers are expected to check up to 6 mirrors as well as 3 windows before manoeuvring. Due to how quickly things can change in a split second on the road, this arguably asks too much of the drivers and that is before we even think of the extra burden for drivers of foreign HGV vehicles who are positioned on the opposite side of the vehicle.
The New Direct Vision Standard (DVS) has been implemented as a result of a campaign which was started in 2009 by Kate Cairns. Kate’s sister tragically died following a collision with an HGV while cycling to work. Following her loss, Kate has campaigned tirelessly to try and improve the situation on the road for cyclists.
The DVS is based on the view of the road and surrounding area that the HGV driver will have once they are in the cab driving the lorry. Lorries will be designed with larger cab windows, to reduce the number of blind spots.
Benefits to both cyclists and drivers
Following changes to the Highway Code in January 2022, a hierarchy of road users now makes it absolutely clear that cyclists are more vulnerable road users than motor vehicle occupants and need to be afforded a greater level of protection. It is hoped that once the number of blind spots in HGV’s are reduced, cyclists will be better seen and in turn, protected.
As well as providing protection to cyclists, this will also benefit the HGV drivers themselves. The drivers will be able to drive more confidently and be at less risk of unintentionally causing an accident or collision that can have devastating impacts for both the cyclist and driver.
A change welcomed with open arms
From 2026, all new HGV designs will have to meet these requirements. Any truck manufactured in Europe or Japan must also do the same by 2029. These requirements will be rolled out in 29 countries, and it is predicted they will save 550 lives per year in Europe alone. With such a high figure predicted, we more than welcome the change.
In order to ensure the HGV’s meet the requirements, vehicles will be given rating from 0 to 5 stars based on their visibility performance. Any truck under 3 stars will have to have additional safety features like sensors, cameras, and signs. Once rolled out, this will mean that all HGV drivers’ visibility of the road and its users will increase significantly.
Leading the charge for DVS has been London, who have operated a mandatory requirement for all vehicles over 12t to have at least a 1 star DVS rating since October 2020. From 28 October 2024, almost all HGV’s using the capitals roads will have to be rated at 3 stars or above.
Whilst there is no current plan to extend DVS beyond the Transport for London boundaries, clearly transport operators who invest in these safety systems now are not only going to save lives, but also save on premiums as it equips drivers to adequately see those most vulnerable road users.
Safety first, changes second
Unfortunately, this change will not happen overnight and while cyclists are waiting for the change, other measures should be taken on an individual basis.
We advise all road users to think about their position on the roads - cyclists should take up an appropriate position on the road to make themselves more visible and therefore safer and in some cases, this might be out towards the centre of the carriageway. Equally when overtaking a bike rider, motor vehicle drivers need to follow guidance in the Highway Code and give riders plenty of space (1.5m if passing at 30mph).
Never attempt to ride up the inside of a commercial vehicle, whether that vehicle is in motion or stationary at a junction.
We can help
Unfortunately, accidents do happen. Here at JMW we use expertise and dedication to help people who have been involved in cycling accidents.
We deal with a wide range of cycling claims, and this includes fatal cases. When needed, we are able to deal with inquests as well as compensation claims. Regardless of the circumstances, contact us – we are specialists, and we can help you.