BlogMembersDouble Whammy Heading for UROC Truck Operators (and others)

Double Whammy Heading for UROC Truck Operators (and others)

Double Whammy Heading for UROC Truck Operators (and others)

Two tough challenges are heading for operators of HGVs – specifically in London … but be confident that the plans will be rolled out across other major cities. The first relates to the design of HGVs (cabs and safety in particular) that will be allowed to operate in the capital – and the second is related to the declaration of war on current levels of inner city air pollution.

According to Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, “Our ground-breaking Direct Vision Standard will be the first of its kind in the world, and TfL will lead by example by not using any zero-star lorries in its future supply chain” – a plan announced by Transport for London in January this year under the helpful headline ‘TfL takes the next step to remove dangerous lorries’.

For operators of HGVs in the waste industry – and there are lots of those, the proposals suggest that the new standard could be in place by 2020. If that is the case, then quite probably half the fleet currently in operation in the London area may not be compliant – and by implication, not able to work within defined areas or on specific sites.

One leading UROC member, Jacqueline O’Donovan of North London-based O’Donovan Waste Disposal, describes the proposals as “Turning on the logistics industry as low hanging fruit”. Under the Mayor’s plans, say TfL, the most dangerous HGVs will be banned from London streets entirely by January 2020. These HGVs, often ‘off-road’ lorries would be ‘zero-star rated by the Direct Vision Standard – determined by the level of vision the driver has directly from the cab. By setting out their plans now, TfL expects many dangerous lorries will be upgraded before the restriction comes into force.

What appears to have escaped its notice is that a significant number of the vehicles operating in the waste and construction industry are specifically designed for the job – particularly in respect of ground clearance … so effectively installing a low-level bus / RCV-style cab on a tipper or hook loader could significantly constrain what it is designed to do.

Unsurprisingly, TfL and the Mayor’s office take aim at the number of KSI (Killed or Seriously Injured) incidents involving cyclists and HGVs … but completely overlook the number of injuries and incidents that occur weekly between cyclists and buses, where the coachwork is only inches off the ground. There is also a remarkable lack of expectation that cyclists and pedestrians may also have to demonstrate a duty of responsibility as road users … like don’t ride up the inside of a truck at a set of traffic lights when its left indicator and turning buzzers are operating.

The waste industry has been both quick and creative in the way it has responded already to the need for greater safety systems on HGVs – additional windows, cameras, proximity warning systems, compliance with initiatives including FORS, CLOCS and no doubt, there will be others. 

But all this has a cost. There is a significant price premium on a new chassis with the low entry all round visibility cab and ultimately, the costs will have an impact on operating and service costs for the end customer.

Indeed, Jacqui O’Donovan has been sufficiently concerned and proactive about the proposals that her company e-mailed its entire database to canvass opinion on the proposals and encourage contacts to respond during the period of consultation – which ended on 24th April. “We will see what falls out of the consultation”, says Jacqui, “these plans have potentially very serious implications for smaller operators – and more generally for all our customers”. The transport industry trade associations, such as the Road Haulage Association, have been equally critical of the proposals.

Reducing air pollution

Also, occupying a significant amount of time for O’Donovan (and others) are the discussions and proposals surrounding the claimed need for a diesel scrappage scheme, the introduction of Ultra Low Emissions Zones (ULEZs) and other ‘pollution reducing’ measures.

Once again, the London Mayor is leading the charge – certainly so far as the capital is concerned. As he has warned the Prime Minister, “The United Kingdom will fail to meet its legal obligations on air quality unless the government signs up to a series of major interventions including a national diesel scrappage fund, new low emission zones across the UK and a Clean Air Act for the 21st century”. Amongst his specific demands are for fiscal incentives which encourage the purchase of diesel vehicles to be amended, through vehicle excise duty – and for new and additional powers to be granted for London to manage emissions from the river and construction sites – not just road transport.

With her ear, characteristically close to the industry, Jacqui O’Donovan describes the mood as ‘a rush to fill a hole’ … with a lot of the current thinking simply ‘back to front’. “All the latest vehicles in our fleet – and amongst many of our industry colleagues, already meet Euro VI. That means that in many cases, our vehicles are already cleaner than many petrol engine vehicles – but it is still ‘the lorry’ which gets the wrap”.

Asked about the alternatives, O’Donovan says that she is disappointed by the speed at which the truck industry has responded to the inevitable demand for alternative powertrains such as hybrids and compressed gas, let alone the specific issues that could relate to the suitability of such vehicles for use in the waste industry.

Thirty percent of O’Donovan’s fleet is Euro VI and it typically expects to achieve an 8-12-year operating life from its vehicles. Having conducted an exercise to understand what could be involved, the company calculates that it could need to invest £2million just to convert its Euro V fleet to comply with the new regulations.

But the last word for this month belongs to Jacqui. “The current proposals are being driven by a lust for results and quick fixes. Our industry is an essential part of the infrastructure which makes our cities work. Let’s sit down, look at the targets, assess the cumulative impact, then engage and develop strategies which can solve problems and deliver results … not pick unfairly on one sector and expect it to provide – and pay for the solutions to all the problems”. 

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