What does London’s Safer Lorry Scheme mean for transport managers?

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Andrew Hill • May 25, 2016 • Fleet managementHGV

Everyone wants vehicles and our roads to be safer, and although it’s an essential aim in today’s world it’s one that does take time and investment to meet successfully.

As things stand, lorry manufacturers now designing models that are safer for both pedestrians and cyclists, although these costs are largely passed onto buyers. For the rest, it has been up to vehicle owners to retrofit safety features to their existing vehicles – something they may have avoided for practical financial reasons.

Getting the most out of your commercial fleet management budget is an ever present challenge but keeping your vehicles too long could seriously damage your business

That’s a situation that’s changing. From 1st September last year, Transport for London rolled out its Safer Lorry Scheme. If your vehicles don’t meet the new safety standards it imposes, you either have to switch to compliant vehicles or retrofit your current fleet so they are considered safe. And unlike the Low Emissions Zone, you can’t avoid using a non-compliant vehicle by paying a daily charge – this is an all-or-nothing change. Ignore it and you face a fine of £1,000 per infringement and run the risk of being reported to the Traffic Commissioner responsible for HGVs.

What do I need to do?

It’s not hard to see why the Safer Lorry Scheme is now operating. The vast majority of cyclist deaths in London involve HGVs, even though they comprise only 5% of the capital’s traffic. Something needed to be done to make the capital’s roads safer.

In its current incarnation, the scheme has three main elements. Any lorry using London’s roads now has to have:

  • A Class VI mirror. Often referred to as a ‘front blind spot mirror’ or a ‘drivers’ wide angle mirror’, these allow you to see the front few feet in front of the cab, which are not normally visible.
  • A Class V mirror. Other names for this include ‘side proximity mirror’ or ‘overdoor kerb mirror’ and it gives you a clearer view of the space immediately to the side of the cab.
  • Side guards. These are panels or bars that prevent cyclists or pedestrians being dragged into the space between the axles and under the wheels.

Are there other safety features required?

As so often happens when new schemes like this are introduced, they evolve to impose new demands. In January this year, former London Mayor Boris Johnson unveiled a proposal that would make fitting a new window in the lower half of the passenger-side door mandatory. The only vehicles that would be exempt are those where retrofitting is impossible, but it’s quite possible even these vehicles will be banned at a future date. Fitting such a window costs up to £1,500 per lorry, so it’s not a cheap refinement to make.

What does the scheme mean for my fleet?

If you use HGVs for last mile deliverywithin London, you either have to replace your fleet or retrofit the safety features needed to make your vehicles compliant. As we have seen, making a vehicle compliant for today is no guarantee that it will remain compliant tomorrow.

Also, once the London scheme is established, it’s highly likely that similar ones will be introduced in other major cities and towns – meaning your fleet will need to be ready.

The cost of meeting the scheme’s essential safety aims depends on how many vehicles you have and whether you own or lease them. Owners of large numbers of HGVs will be most affected, with modification bills reaching thousands of pounds per vehicle.

That’s why many firms are switching to flexible rental instead. When their fleets fail to meet new safety legislation or emissions restrictions, all they have to do is return the affected vehicles – with no penalty – and exchange them for new ones that fully comply with all relevant safety and emissions standards.

Changing legislation requirements are just one of the challenges encountered by those dealing with last mile deliveries. Our latest eBook, Last Mile Delivery: Opportunity or Threat?,  covers all of the issues that businesses face and the solutions that help ensure that regulatory compliance, changing customer demands and profit are not as at odds as they may first appear.

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