The start of the Mayor of London’s consultation on a Safety Permit Scheme for HGVs in the capital has been met with a mixed response by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the UK’s biggest transport trade association which campaigns for the rights of drivers involved in haulage jobs. The consultation was launched on 16 November, with the new scheme acting as a revision to the original Direct Vision Standard, which had been criticised by the FTA for using direct vision from a driver’s cab as the only criterion for determining whether a permit would be issued or not.
Under the original proposal, HGVs were due to be assessed with a ‘star rating’ on a scale of 0 to 5. Vehicles rated ‘one star’ or above would have been awarded a permit automatically until 2024. A zero rating would have forced substantial change upon drivers in haulage; jobs could only be taken on with a permit if safety systems such as sensors were installed first in these vehicles. However, opponents have argued that direct vision was an insufficient measure, and the Mayor of London has responded to these concerns.
Drive for Improved Road Safety
The Safety Permit Scheme is anticipated to be in place from 2020 and forms a central part of the Vision Zero initiative, a joint scheme between the Mayor of London and Transport for London (TfL). Its implementation is intended to enhance road safety for all road users, including drivers on haulage jobs, by only permitting HGVs that have up-to-date technology – such as in-cab cameras and sensors – installed to operate on the streets of London.
Reacting to the announcement of the consultation, Natalie Chapman, FTA’s Head of Policy for London, agreed that the Direct Vision Standard had not been adequate for truck drivers carrying out haulage jobs, and that incorporating technological advances into Vision Zero made its ultimate aim of improving road safety much more feasible. With regard to this matter, she stated that “Road safety is hugely important and one death on the roads is one too many. However, as trucks are manufactured for the whole of Europe, standards for vehicle design should be set at an EU level and not by individual cities. The narrow focus on direct vision was the wrong one and we are glad that the proposals now being consulted on recognise the technical solutions which are now available and the improvements companies have already made.”
FTA Urges Simplicity
Despite the alterations to the Safety Permit Scheme, concerns have also been raised about it potentially becoming too complicated. Haulage jobs should be regulated by a scheme that is straightforward and dependable. According to Chapman, “Whilst the ‘safe system’ proposal is a move in the right direction, the new permit scheme has the potential to make the regulatory environment in London even more complex. The Safety Permit Scheme needs to be simple, reliable and enforceable and should focus on the vehicle only to match the Direct Vision Standard approach.
The exact details of the permit scheme are due to be developed next year following the consultation, which is asking for feedback from all road users in the capital and stakeholders. The consultation will run until 24 January 2018.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage jobs with available drivers. Over 4,800 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.