Opinion

A response to Sadiq Khan's Direct Vision Standard

20 February 2017

Jacqueline O'Donovan, managing director of O'Donovan Waste Disposal, explains why the London mayor's fast-tracking of his "vision zero" approach won't work.

Sadiq Khan has revealed his next steps for his planned Direct Vision Standard which has adopted a “vision zero” approach to road danger reduction. While I am in favour of changes that continue to make London’s roads safer and believe that direct vision is the way forward, Khan’s proposal for an HGV rating system from 0 to 5 stars by 2020 is far too ambitious.

Ultimately, the requirements will push independentDi companies out of the running, as they will not be able to afford to redesign their entire fleet in three years. In September 2014 the Euro 6 engines – which have reduced emissions by 80% and particulate matter by 50% – became available for the first time, and with an HGV expected to last between seven and nine years, we’re nowhere near the end of their lifecycle yet.

Khan’s timeline will seriously damage small business owners and family companies, the very businesses he should be supporting, given the real realities of Brexit.

"While we continue to work with manufacturers to speed up the process, collaboration between HGV drivers and cyclists and education for both sides are essential for safer roads. Khan fast-tracking his plans won't work and will only cost in the long term."

Jacqueline O'Donovan

Coming down hard on the logistics industry is an easy win for Khan, but his plans aren’t feasible nor financially viable. Our industry, manufacturers and TfL have worked tirelessly over the last six years to continuously improve direct vision and safety, which is evident from the reduction in collisions we are now seeing.

We have been working on safer vehicles and retro-fitted features to minimise blind spots, but it's not a “one cap fits all” scenario. Innovation in direct vision is already happening, but wishing for it faster is simply impractical.

Last year we launched the Mercedes Econic skip loaders, for example, which deliver previously unseen safety features, offering the driver an unparalleled view of vulnerable road users. The lorry has a wide field of vision with its deep panoramic windscreen, a fully glazed floor to ceiling “bus style” nearside door and lowered driving position which puts the driver at eye level with both cyclists and pedestrians.

The glazed door also provides direct visibility of the nearside blind spot, a particularly vulnerable position for cyclists.

Prior to this launch, I also worked closely with the leading manufacturers such as MAN, DAF, Volvo and Mercedes in the design, development and launch of the new vehicle designs. Our entire fleet is fitted with technology from the latest mirrors, cameras and audio warnings for turning vehicles. While technology is not the long-term solution in my opinion, it’s the best option until manufacturers provide other alternatives on a wider scale.

While we continue to work with manufacturers to speed up this process, collaboration between HGV drivers and cyclists and education for both sides are essential for safer roads. Khan fast-tracking his plans just for a quick win won’t work and will only cost in the long term.

He is ignoring all this good work and punishing HGV operators with this pie in the sky proposal. It’s time the two sides came together in a collaborative round table to establish what exactly is going into this rating system.

Currently, Khan’s tactic is to shut out the voice of the logistics industry and we’ve had enough. To make sure our voices are heard, I am encouraging all construction logistics companies, of all sizes, to share their views on the government’s online survey: together we can make sure our issues are recognised.

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