TfL’s pioneering Direct Vision Standard comes into force

2 Mar 2021 11:45 AM

In a world first, TfL's lorry safety scheme is now enforced on all roads in London with free safety permits required for all freight operators.

Transport for London (TfL), working with the London boroughs, has delivered a radical improvement to road safety in the capital that will save lives and serious injuries, with the introduction of the pioneering Direct Vision Standard (DVS). The vital lorry safety scheme is now operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is enforced on all roads in London, with standards set to tighten further in 2024.  

More than 30,000* Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) have been made safer thanks to TfL's Direct Vision Standard scheme, which reduces lethal blind spots by introducing a free permit system that assigns vehicles a star rating based on how much the driver can see directly through their cab window.

All owners of HGVs over 12 tonnes now need a valid permit to operate in London. Those without a permit face a new penalty charge notice (PCN) of up to £550**. To date, more than 90,000 permits have been issued, including more than 3,000 to 5-star vehicles which provide the highest levels of direct vision.

TfL data shows that around 150,000 HGVs enter London every year. 

Introduced with the support of London Councils, the Direct Vision Standard forms part of the Mayor of London's Vision Zero plan to eliminate all death and serious injuries from London's streets by 2041. HGVs continue to be disproportionately deadly. While big lorries accounted for just three per cent of the overall miles driven in London 2018-20, they were involved in nearly half (41 per cent) of fatal collisions involving people cycling and 19 per cent involving people walking. This means that HGVs are five times more likely to be involved in a collision resulting in a fatality, relative to their share of traffic. Provisional data*** shows that in the first two months of 2021 alone, three people walking and cycling in London have already been killed by HGVs.

Developed through extensive engagement with lorry manufacturers and the freight industry, TfL's Direct Vision Standard measures the driver's direct field of vision from their cab and rates it from 0 to 5 stars, depending on how much they can see.

HGVs rated 1 to 5 stars received their free safety permit automatically. The operators of lorries rated 0 star - around half of HGVs operating in London - are required to fit safe systems including:

As a result, more than 30,000 dangerous zero-rated HGVs have now had safe systems fitted, improving protection for vulnerable road users and saving lives. More than 60,000 HGVs rated 1 to 5 stars received their safety permit automatically and this includes more than 3,000 5-star vehicles. Several freight operators including SUEZ Recycling and Recovery and FM Conway and major projects such as Tideway have led the way in introducing 5-star vehicles to London, which provide high levels of direct vision and are the most effective at reducing tragic road deaths and serious injuries.

The DVS and Safety Permit scheme is progressive and the standards will tighten in October 2024 when the minimum DVS star rating will be three stars and above. All HGVs below three stars will need to feature a progressive safe system which takes into account any additional technology or safety equipment not currently available.

Meanwhile, a tighter Low Emission Zone (LEZ)**** standard also came into force yesterday to coincide with the DVS. Heavy vehicles including lorries, buses, coaches and specialist vehicles now need to meet Euro VI (NOx and PM) emissions standards or pay a daily charge to drive within the Greater London area. Compliance with the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards has continued to grow throughout 2020 despite the pandemic, showing that schemes such as ULEZ and LEZ are effective in achieving significant air quality reductions. 

Will Norman, London's Walking and Cycling Commissioner, yesterday said:

“I'm really proud that London is leading the way and our world-first Direct Vision Standard is now in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week across all the roads in our city. This will save lives and improve road safety from day one by reducing lethal HGV blindspots, with more than 30,000 lorries fitted with vehicle safety measures ahead of enforcement beginning.  

“More Londoners are walking and cycling than ever before and by taking this bold action we are doing all we can to protect them. It is a major step forward in the Mayor's Vision Zero plan to eradicate all deaths and injuries from our roads, and is also set to transform road safety across Europe in the coming years.”

Christina Calderato, Head of Transport Planning for TfL, yesterday said:

“We know that the Direct Vision Standard will protect all Londoners who walk and cycle by ensuring that the most dangerous vehicles on our streets have effective safety measures. This will prevent needless death and injury on our roads – there will be people alive by the end of this year who wouldn't have been if we hadn't taken this bold and necessary action.

“We are immensely proud that our Direct Vision Standard – a world-first for lorry safety – will not only save lives in London, but in the UK and all over Europe as operators upgrade their entire fleets, sometimes upgrading hundreds of vehicles. This vital step is core to our Vision Zero plan to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on London's roads.”

Victoria Lebrec, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Communications at RoadPeace, yesterday said:

“In 2014 a driver behind the wheel of a lorry failed to see me whilst I was cycling, and crushed me. I lost my leg as a result of the crash, and have been left permanently disabled. The Direct Vision Standard will prevent crashes like mine. Transport for London should be commended for introducing the scheme, which will save lives and prevent serious injury.

“I urge operators to go beyond the minimum star rating standard required now, and ensure their vehicles have as much direct vision as possible.”

Joshua Harris, Director of Campaigns for Brake, yesterday said:

“The Direct Vision Standard is a clear forward step for road safety in the capital and one which we hope is replicated across the country, and globally. Protecting the safety of those who walk and cycle, through measures like the Direct Vision Standard, is fundamental to a Vision Zero approach and, hopefully, as the danger from motor traffic decreases, more people will choose to travel in active ways, meaning less motor vehicles and safer cleaner roads for everyone.”

It's vital that TfL acts now to prevent more dangerous collisions involving HGVs. Each year, around 4,000 people are killed or seriously injured on London's streets. Each fatality has caused heartbreak and trauma for everyone involved, and each is an unacceptable tragedy. TfL is committed to creating a safer future for everyone in the capital.

Longer term, the DVS will save even more lives by helping to strengthen the freight industry's safety culture. Over the next decade, it will help to transform lorry design: in February 2019, with support from the Mayor of London, the European Parliament accepted an amendment to the General Safety Regulation which includes the need for improved direct vision for lorries. All vehicles will have to meet a minimum direct vision standard by 2028 - saving an estimated 550 lives a year across Europe.

Gordon Sutherland, Road Logistics Manager at Tideway, yesterday said:

“Tideway adopted a number of vehicle safety measures at the outset of the project in 2014. Since then, we have ensured our supply chain operates vehicles that meet the conditions of the Safety Permit Scheme, incorporating the Direct Vision Standard. Rolling it out across London is a welcome step and will help to save lives.

“We have committed to moving materials by river wherever possible, which is safer, cleaner and better for pedestrians and cyclists. But where we need to use HGVs, our supply chain's compliant and 5-star fleet will ensure this is done as safely as possible. 

“As we continue our vital work to clean up the River Thames, we're proud to be playing our part in improving the lives of Londoners by creating a safer, cleaner environment.”

James Griffin, Technical Manager at SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK, yesterday said:

“Whilst safety is a critical element within the culture of SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK, and we already invest heavily to make our vehicles as safe as possible, the TfL Direct Vision Standard represents a major step-change in our being able to protect other vulnerable road users who may be affected by our HGV operations in Greater London. This TfL initiative is definitely a world-leading benchmark for vulnerable road user safety on heavily congested road systems in cities such as London.”

Peter Parle, Senior Transport Manager, FM Conway, yesterday said:

“FM Conway is proud to support the Mayor of London's new HGV Safety Permit system and the Direct Vision Standard for heavy HGVs, much like the ones that we use in London. Safety is at the heart of our business and the DVS five-star rated Mercedes and Dennis tipper grabs that we use give us high performance at the same time as the safest cab view for our drivers and for the cyclists and pedestrians they share the streets with.”

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