Construction clients are being called on to help cut HGV-related accidents.
Campaigners to cut out deaths from collisions with heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) servicing the construction sector are urging clients to include lorry safety measures in construction contracts.
There were 121 fatalities involving HGVs 2016 – four times as many as the number of fatalities on construction sites, which came to 30 that year.
HGV safety record
Data from the South East Centre for the Built Environment shows that in London, HGVs account for only 4% of traffic yet are involved in 20% of pedestrian fatalities and 78% of cyclist fatalities.
Of the HGVs involved in collisions where someone was killed or seriously injured, an average of 38% were involved with construction projects in the four years from 2012 to 2016.
The engineering and construction industry rightly says that one death is too many and while there has been progress to improve safety on construction sites, the whole sector – in particular those in procurement who can mandate behaviours in contracts – is being urged to help cut offsite accidents involving HGVs.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the launch of the construction and logistics community safety (Clocs) standard to cut road deaths from collisions with construction HGVs.
The standard brings together best practice from policies, codes of practice and standards into one common work-related road risk standard, which goes beyond legal compliance.
Clocs was developed as a result of initiatives within the industry to improve HGV accident rates, including a report about the issue, commissioned by then Transport for London commissioner Sir Peter Hendy.
These included the See Me Save Me campaign founded by civil engineer and independent consultant Kate Cairns. She launched the initiative after her younger sister Eilidh died after she was run down from behind by a tipper lorry while cycling through Notting Hill Gate.
“I felt compelled to tackle the shocking frequency with which HGVs were involved in cyclist deaths; and the lack of meaningful investigation for future prevention,” she says.
On-site versus off-site safety culture
Following the investigation into her sister’s death, Cairns became acutely aware of the massive difference between on-site safety culture and the safety culture off-site.
The aims of the See Me Save Me campaign were to extend rigorous on-site safety standards to off-site vehicle activity.
These included extending the scope of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (Riddor) to include public roads. It also sought to have best available technology installed in vehicles and to improve training for drivers. See Me Save Me has also been pushing for clients to stipulate as such in contract documents and for legislation banning lorries which do not comply.
These original aims have been largely met, which is a “massive success” for See Me Save Me,” says Cairns, adding that Clocs played a large part in its success.
Five years on from the launch of the Clocs standard, it now has more than 600 champions.
These are clients, contractors, operators, and trade bodies which are implementing and monitoring compliance with the standard on their projects, or working towards it.
“We have evolved from a small community of the ‘willing’ to a large community of the ‘doing’.”
While the number of operators and contractors signing up to Clocs has increased, those behind it want to see more clients specify Clocs requirements in the procurement process, taking the lead from client adopters Transport for Greater Manchester and Manchester University.
“People will only implement standards if they are enabled or obliged,” says Cairns.
“We need every planning authority and every procurer – public and private – to specify Clocs.” Cairns successfully encouraged Northumberland County Council to become a champion while she was an elected member in 2017.
“If it is relevant in Northumberland, one of the most rural counties and most distant from the capital, then it is relevant in every local authority; they all have own fleet, procure infrastructure, and all have planning powers to keep their communities safe from HGVs,” she says.
People will only implement standards if they are enabled or obliged
Worryingly, road users killed or seriously injured in collisions with HGVs over 3.5t have increased in many regions (see graph). For example, the casualty rate per million population in the West Midlands was 5.85 in 2012, but by 2016 it had increased to 8.11. Wales has gone from 4.19 in 2012 to 6.13 in 2016.
In London, mayor Sadiq Khan launched the world’s first Direct Vision Standard (DVS) for HGVs in 2016, rating vehicles over 12t on a score from 0 to 5 based on how much the driver can see directly through cab windows, as opposed to indirectly through cameras or mirrors.
HGV safety permit plan
It forms part of a proposal for an HGV safety permit, which if given the green light, will mean by 2020 all HGVs over 12t will need one to operate in Greater London.
Now Cairns is keen to ensure that this does not simply force non-compliant vehicles out to other parts of the country.
“There are already more deaths outside of London than in London. We must ensure that as vehicle standards improve in the capital the rest of the country does not suffer; something the stats are already beginning to show,” she says.
London’s new DVS coincides with changes planned for the current Clocs standard, which will be launched next year.
The South East Centre for the Built Environment has already produced a guide for procurement and planning professionals to help them implement the standard.
With the risk that many skilled workers, including drivers will leave the construction industry because of Brexit, Cairns says it is essential no shortcuts are taken in the training of HGV drivers.
“Brexit is exacerbating the driver shortage and pressure will be increased to take on drivers who are not as well equipped, competent or trained as they should be” says Cairns.
And evidence is beginning to come through to show that it does work. For example, Camden Council specified Clocs in its procurement and the number of collisions and complaints reduced by 47% over two years.