Mayor pledges new Safer Lorry Charge to protect cyclists in London

4 September 2013
  • Daily charge proposed to exclude most dangerous lorries from capital

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today announced new proposals to remove the most unsafe lorries from the capital.

The proposal is set out alongside a major package to make cyclists safer announced by the Mayor and the Transport Minister, Stephen Hammond, today.

The Mayor will ask Londoners for their views on whether he should use his powers to levy a substantial "Safer Lorry Charge" on any HGV which is not fitted with basic safety equipment to protect cyclists. A consultation on the proposal, partly modelled on the successful Low Emission Zone, will begin in early 2014.

Mr Hammond and the Mayor announced a joint TfL/Department for Transport Industrial HGV Task Force of additional police officers and Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) staff to enforce the regulations against construction HGVs and a review by the DfT of national exemptions allowing some vehicles to operate without side-guards.

Between 2008 and 2012, HGVs were involved in 53 per cent of London cyclist deaths despite making up only 4 per cent of the traffic. They have been involved in four of the six cyclist deaths in London so far this year.

The Mayor, Boris Johnson, said: “I have long been worried that a large number of cyclist deaths involve a relatively small number of problem lorries which are not fitted with safety equipment. In my cycling vision in March, I said that no lorry should be allowed in London unless it is fitted with equipment to protect cyclists. After a lot of work behind the scenes, we have today taken the first steps to make this a reality.”

Under national legislation, many HGVs, such as supermarket delivery lorries and the like, are fitted with sidebars or low skirts which protect cyclists from being dragged underneath the vehicle and crushed.

However, construction lorries, tipper trucks, waste vehicles, cement mixers and certain other forms of HGV are exempt from these and other safety requirements. The rising number of such vehicles in London's building boom is a serious hazard to the growing number of cyclists, who now make up almost a quarter of all rush hour traffic in the centre. Of the nine cyclist deaths involving HGVs in 2011, seven involved construction lorries.

The proposed London Safer Lorry Charge is partly modelled on the successful London Low Emission Zone, which charges up to £200 a day for commercial vehicles that do not meet tough emission standards. Anyone who fails to pay the charge faces an even higher penalty. The proposed charge would not cover buses, smaller commercial vehicles, cars or motorbikes.

The Industrial HGV Task Force would significantly expand enforcement capacity against problem HGVs, with new VOSA staff in London funded by the DfT and additional policing funded by TfL. It would create a truly joint pan-London HGV task force across the entire Greater London area for the first time, with a relentless focus on vehicles not complying with safety legislation, with the ability to follow through from on-street enforcement to operator and regulatory follow-up.

Mr Johnson and Mr Hammond also announced a package of other measures to make lorries safer for cyclists, including:

-           DfT and the Driving Standards Agency issuing a call for evidence about how driver training could change

-           An expansion of the successful "Exchanging Places" initiative where cyclists and lorry drivers swap places to understand what the road looks like from the other person's point of view;

-           jointly pressing the EU to allow safer designs of new lorries with better sightlines and fewer blind spots.

Stephen Hammond said: “The Government is committed to improving the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users. Today’s announcement of a dedicated Industrial HGV Task Force will target the small minority of large goods vehicle operators who are unaware of, or just wilfully non-compliant with, safety regulations for commercial vehicles and their drivers. I have also committed to review vehicle regulations to ensure there are no unjustified exemptions from safety standards and, together with the Mayor, will press the EU to improve vehicle safety designs as soon as possible.”

London’s Transport Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, said: “For years we have successfully worked with the freight and construction industries to improve the safety standards on lorries on the capital’s streets.  However, there are still some operators out there who are not doing enough to ensure their vehicles are as safe as they can be.  These new measures, including a new Safer Lorry Charge, will ensure safer lorries operate in London and potentially more widely across the whole of the UK.”