Lorry design changes could “save hundreds of lives each year”
European rule changes allowing longer and rounder lorry cabs could cut collisions involving vulnerable road users, the European Commission has said.
The new proposals from Brussels were welcomed by London's transport commissioner as well as the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims (FEVR) and Transport & Environment (T&E) campaigning groups.
Jeannot Mersch, FEVR president, said: “Lorries have an infamous reputation when it comes to road safety, and rightly so. Currently, a frontal crash with a lorry is like hitting a brick wall. Design changes to the nose of the lorry cab will help to reduce severe injuries and save hundreds of lives each year. These improvements should be mandated for all lorries as soon as possible.”
Boris Johnson, mayor of London, said he wanted to ban heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) from the capital unless they were fitted with cycle-safety measures, including ‘skirts’ and special mirrors.
The new plan would free up designers to develop deeper cabin skirts as part of a round, deflecting nose shape and extended crumple zone. The bigger cabs would also improve driver vision.
Sir Peter Hendy, London's transport commissioner, welcomed the plan as a positive step forward, saying: “The revision of this directive allowing for greater visibility of cyclists and other vulnerable road users is an important step in the development of a safer and more efficient goods vehicle.
“We continue to lead the way in pushing for the adoption of safer lorries and safer lorry driving within the capital. We have been actively working with local and national Government and the European Commission to adopt strict emission and safety standards for commercial vehicles.”
The European Commission acknowledged that current rules on lorry weights and dimensions did not have energy efficiency or other environmental objectives in mind. On safety, a Commission statement said: “In practice the current rules now actually prevent the introduction of innovative designs – such as more rounded cabins – which are essential to increase fuel efficiency and safety.”
The existing EU directive restricting heavy goods vehicle weight to 44 tonnes maximum will not change, but current maximum length 18.75 metres (61.5ft) will be increased – as long as the increase is in the cab section and improves safety and aerodynamic efficiency.
If approved by MEPs and EU transport ministers, they would be able to alter the current brick-shaped cab which rules out rounder, more streamlined front sections.
Unveiling the proposals in Brussels, Siim Kallas, EU transport commissioner, said: “A brick is the least aerodynamic shape you can imagine, that's why we need to improve the shape of the lorries on our roads.
“These changes make road transport cleaner and safer. They will reduce hauliers' fuel bills and give European manufacturers a head-start in designing the truck of the future, a greener truck for the global market.”
Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “The IAM is pleased that lorry design is finally catching up with the principles that have made cars so much safer in recent years.
“Crumple zones, side skirts and softer fronts will help reduce death and injury for all road users as well as the most vulnerable. The EU must move quickly to establish the right legislative framework so that we can see these new lorries on our roads as soon as possible.”
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