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HGV design changes for the 21st century

TfL-funded research shows that increasing HGV drivers’ direct vision is the best way to improve road safety

LEADING UK academics have presented revolutionary, but achievable, changes to lorry designs which could save the lives of hundreds of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

As part of Transport for London’s (TfL’s) work on improving safety for all road users, Loughborough Design School – part of the University of Loughborough – was commissioned to demonstrate how realistic and economical changes to HGV cab designs could lead to tangible increases in road safety.


The project was jointly funded by TfL and Transport & Environment (T&E), a campaign group arguing for smarter, greener transport in Europe.

The average cyclist is invisible to the eye of an HGV driver up to 1.9m from the base of the cab. These blind spots are the result of an outdated cab design, and reducing these areas can help reduce the risk to road users.

Over the past few decades, however, there has been little improvement in the amount of direct vision for HGV drivers. Attempted solutions to address blind-spot issues have included increasing the size and number of mirrors, but it is increased direct vision that is said to hold the key to improved road safety.

Using recently proposed changes to the length of HGVs by the EU Commission, Loughborough Design School demonstrated the improvements possible to an expert panel in Brussels earlier this month. The achievable changes can result in significant improvements to the amount of direct vision that an HGV driver has of his/her surroundings, in particular to the vital areas close to the cab.

The ‘direct vision’ concept that Loughborough has recommended would include a slightly curved and elongated nose on the vehicle, a smaller dashboard, expanded glazed areas in the passenger doors and corner of the cab, and a slightly lower cab position.

An improved HGV drivers cab with more direct vision and an increased aerodynamic front provides better safety and reduced costs to the operator. The appetite for these changes exists across the industry from hauliers and trade unions, to cities and safety groups.

Poor driver vision and lorry blind spots are a major cause of fatal accidents involving HGVs. Between 2008 and 2013, large commercial vehicles were involved in 55% of London’s cyclist deaths, despite comprising only 4% of the traffic. The relatively small changes in design that the University of Loughborough have recommended will dramatically increase the drivers’ direct vision in critical areas, potentially saving hundreds of lives.

Leon Daniels, managing director of surface transport at TfL, said: ‘We are committed to improving road safety for everyone. We have led the way with the proposed Safer Lorry Scheme and the introduction of the Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety programme, all of which will improve the safety of the roads beyond our capital.

‘From Walkmans to iPhones, technology has moved on in leaps and bounds since the 1980s, but HGV drivers are still in cabs that have seen very little improvement in direct vision for decades. Thanks to our funding, a leading UK academic institution has demonstrated to Europe how the vehicle manufacturing industry can continue to progress. Improved and increased direct vision will benefit all. Safety will be improved, efficiencies will be made and lives will be saved.’

One of TfL’s top priorities is to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on London’s roads, with a target of a 40% reduction by 2020. Recently, the Mayor and TfL published six commitments which, working with a range of partners, are guiding initiatives to deliver this. In particular, action is being taken to prioritize the safety of the most vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

In particular, TfL has been leading the way in improving road safety in relation to the construction industry and ensuring that all operators are working on a level playing field. Launched in 2013 as an industry response to a TfL commissioned report, the Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety (CLOCS) programme has brought together developers, construction companies, operators, vehicle manufacturers and regulatory bodies to ensure a road safety culture is embedded across the construction industry.

Significant achievements have already been made through CLOCS, including the first national standard designed to help reduce collisions between trucks and all vulnerable road users – The Standard for construction logistics: Managing work-related road risk.


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