Contractors and materials producers this week pledged to back a campaign to reduce the likelihood of serious injury or fatalities from cyclists colliding with construction vehicles.
The move comes as NCE this week joined the See Me Save Me safety campaign led by civil engineer and independent sustainability advisor Kate Cairns.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) and aggregates, cement and concrete trade body Material Products Association (MPA) both offered their support and said it was an issue that needed to be addressed.
“If we look at our industry in the 21st century, cycle safety is something that we face,” said Ceca external affairs director Alasdair Reisner.
He said a plan to tackle the problem was needed because of the number of recent accidents and deaths involving cyclists and construction vehicles.
MPA economics and public affairs director Jerry McLaughlin said the issue of cycle safety was high on its agenda.
“We’re supportive of the campaign,” said McLaughlin. “We hope it helps progress the improvement of the safety of cyclists.”
He added that construction’s focus on making people safe should not be restricted to sites but that it should also include activities off site.
Deliveries of materials such as concrete and aggregate are often the HGVs involved in accidents with cyclist.
“We’ve paid a lot attention to improving health and safety on site,” McLaughlin said. “The next progression is to focus on the external [impact].”
Last year the MPA published its Vulnerable Road Users policy to reduce the numbers of accidents involving construction traffic.
The policy states that all new HGVs over 7.5t should be fitted with safety equipment such as on board cameras that eliminate blind spots and side under run guards that prevent cyclists being caught beneath a vehicle’s rear wheels.
It also calls for existing vehicles to be retrofitted within five years, as well as recommending that all drivers receive specific vulnerable road user training. McLaughlin said many firms were already beginning to have the equipment fitted as standard.
Proportion of NCE readers in favour of compulsory cycle safety equipment for construction trucks
Proportion of NCE readers against compulsory cycle safety equipment for construction trucks
Demands from clients for cycle protection equipment have helped progress the cause, said McLaughlin.
Reisner agreed that in London recent improvements to contractors’ vehicles were largely driven by client requirements.
“Why do members have the equipment already in place?” asked Reisner. “Because Crossrail asked for it.”
Reisner said Transport for London’s Freight Operator Recognition Scheme, which sets bronze, silver and gold standards for vehicle safety and driver training, could be a good model for the rest of the country.
He said that, while there were costs involved in upgrading fleets, the practical cost (through loss of working hours for instance) as well as the emotional cost of accidents for the driver and cyclist should prompt investment.
“There’s a real desire for this,” said Reisner.
Taking the lead
Contractor FM Conway has a fleet of 180 vehicles over 16t, 90% of which operate within the M25. Plant transport director Steve Hart said the firm’s commitment to the safety of cyclists included a requirement that all of its drivers “experience riding round London’s back streets”.
Soon all of the firm’s fleet of large lorries which deliver a range of materials and plant to sites across London, including to Crossrail schemes, will be fitted with extensive cycle protection equipment.
“Thirty per cent of our fleet has had cyclist protection measures installed and the rest will be fitted out in the next three months,” said Hart.
Those measures include side guards, or skirting, blind spot detection sensors and all round cycle sensors which Hart said are “tuned to moving objects, like cyclists”.
They also have cameras at the front rear and sides and in cab video displays plus audible warnings which are triggered when cyclists approach the rear of a vehicle, similar to parking sensors fitted to some cars.
Hart said each vehicle upgrade would cost £1,200.
But he added that the system would generate substantial savings on insurance premiums.
“We have a created centre of excellence and our premiums are down 20%,” he said.