Council adopts new safety standards to reduce road risk

Northumberland County Council  has  adopted two  new national safety standards which aim to reduce the risk of collisions between HGVs and vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists.
 
The safety standards have been put in place to help companies improve driver skills and competence and follow good practice in the management of their vehicles and operations.
 
One of the requirements of achieving   the accreditations is the attendance at a ‘Safe Urban Driving’ course. This  provides drivers with the knowledge, skills and defensive driving techniques to deal with the increasing challenges of driving in  busy environments where restricted space is shared with other road users.
 
Other requirements include the fitting of adaptations to eliminate vehicle blind spots to help detect the presence of vulnerable road users and a simulation exercise to give drivers a ‘real life’ experience of using a road from a cyclist’s perspective.
 
Northumberland County Councillor, Ian Swithenbank, cabinet member for local services welcomed the decision:
 
“There is a growing number of cyclists and motorcyclists on our narrow rural roads and a growing number of HGVs. This means the hazard is only increasing. Some of our small villages are access roads for quarries and timber operations and have a large number of heavy wagons passing through them. Similarly, our refuse wagons go to every corner of the county with our council staff often needing to manoeuvre the vehicles in locations which are narrow and have poor sight lines.”
 
The two standards the council is adopting are:
CLOCS:  Construction Logistics and Community Safety. This standard brings the construction logistics industry together to manage risk on the roads and embed a culture of road safety across the industry. Its inception was driven by cyclist deaths but the name has recently changed to highlight the risks HGVs post to the whole community.
 
FORS : Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme. This is an industry led accreditation scheme designed to help road freight operators improve operational performance and safety. There are three levels of accreditation: bronze, silver and gold. The council is initially applying for bronze accreditation with the view to ultimately progressing to gold. Operators achieving the silver standard are deemed to have reached the equivalent of CLOCS compliance.
 
A recent study has found that only 20 per cent of HGV operators fit rear-facing cameras to their lorries and only 12 per cent of vehicles are fitted with sensors that alert drivers to cyclists close to their near side.
 
In Northumberland, between 2011 and 2016, 33% of cyclist fatalities involved heavy goods vehicles.
 
Eilidh Cairns, from Ellingham near Alnwick died in February 2009 at the age of 30 after being knocked off her bike in London where she was living and working for a television production company. The driver later admitted he had not seen the former Duchess’s Community High School student.
 
Eilidh’s sister Kate Cairns and mother Heather Cairns, both Northumberland County Councillors have campaigned tirelessly to eliminate lorry blind spots and bring about improved HGV cab design at European Level with their See Me Save Me campaign.
Cllr Heather Cairns said:  “Needless death and injury is happening right across the country not just in London. HGVs are involved in 22% of cyclist deaths UK-wide and yet they make up only 4% of traffic. More people are killed outside London than within, and more than twice as many pedestrians are killed than cyclists. Time after time, just like in Eilidh’s case, drivers say they didn’t see the victim. Truck design has barely changed since the 1960s; We must give drivers the tools and training to do their job safely.”
 
Cllr Kate Cairns, represents the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and See ME Save Me, on the CLOCS group and is also a member of the Northumberland Cycling and Walking Board. She said:
“ Health and safety has long been a part of the workplace and it’s well overdue that organisations take responsibility for their road safety too. I have seen a massive shift in industry attitude while participating in the development of the national CLOCS standard, and this is spreading to local authorities across the UK.  It has been fantastic to work with receptive colleagues at Northumberland County Council and show what can be achieved when expertise, co-operation and leadership are brought together. I welcome the council’s commitment in taking positive action to manage risk on the road to protect our people and our communities. I hope that others will follow this lead.” said Kate.
 
The council has a fleet of 662 vehicles, 145 of which are over 3.5 ton. In order to meet the accreditation, the council must have front, side and rear blind spots completely eliminated or minimised as far as practical, either through vision aids or audible sensor alerts.
The authority plans to fit the protection systems to these vehicles over the next seven years. The cost of this work, estimated to be £84,650 will be partly offset against a reduction in insurance premiums. Cost savings are also anticipated through reduced collisions and reduced time off the road. In the longer term, any new vehicles purchased by the authority will have new design, direct vision cabs.
 
Northumberland County Councillor, Anne Dale is chair of the Northumberland Cycling and Walking Board She said the council was actively encouraging the adoption of the standards by other local operators:
 
 “While the council cannot enforce the implementation of these standards for all HGVs that travel through Northumberland we are going to be actively promoting  and encouraging adoption of the standards by other operators, for example to local farmers through the National Farmers’ Union. We will be requiring improved standards through planning permission where projects require significant HGV movements and we will let it be known, through our tendering processes, that we are keen to work with safety accredited companies.” 
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