Council shines national spotlight on HGV road safety initiatives

Representatives from Northumberland County Council were invited to speak at a national conference this week to spread the message about the  pioneering safety work it has undertaken to manage the risk of collisions between HGVs and cyclists and pedestrians.

The authority is one of the first in the UK to introduce two new safety standards that have been designed  to help improve driver skills and competence, as well as visibility from the vehicle cab. This involves fitting vision aids and sensor alerts to its fleet of vehicles to eliminate blind spots and help detect the presence of cyclists, pedestrians and motorcycles.  

Head of Neighbourhood Services, Greg Gavin, and Cllr Kate Cairns, elected member for the Longhoughton Ward,  gave the presentation to industry professionals at the national CLOCS Conference and Exhibition in London on Tuesday.

CLOCS (Construction Logistics and Community Safety) is the new national standard for improving vehicle safety, driver competence and responsible operations.

The council representatives were joined by high profile speakers including Mike Brown, Commissioner for Transport for London, as well as hundreds of delegates who came to learn about the latest innovations, training and research that is taking place to reduce the risk of collisions between HGVs and vulnerable road users.

Councillor Kate Cairns tragically lost her sister Eilidh in 2009 after she was knocked off her bike in London.  The driver later admitted he had not seen the former Duchess’s Community High School student.  Cllr Cairns and her mother Heather have lobbied and campaigned tirelessly to eliminate lorry blind spots and bring about improved HGV design at a European Level with their See Me Save Me campaign.  Councillor Cairns said:

“I have addressed this annual conference before in 2015 when I warned that “while we ponder and pontificate people are dying.” What is so refreshing and rewarding this time is that instead of talking about the See Me Save Me campaign and urging action, I was representing Northumberland County Council in showcasing what we have achieved in this rural county so far from the capital. Our message was heard by many key decision makers and people of influence and I hope that it will encourage other local authorities and companies to follow the lead of Northumberland County Council.

“As elected members it is our responsibility to draw on our experience and skills to do the very best job possible for our local communities. With new housing construction across and around my ward, in Embleton, Longhoughton, Rennington and Beadnell, coupled with the successful operation of nearby quarries, there is a disproportionate number of HGVs on our narrow rural roads. Commencement of the A1 widening project will hugely exacerbate this both here and across the county.

“ People have a desire, and a right, to be able to safely walk, scoot, skate or cycle to school, shops, work, or wherever. This is good for health, wellbeing and the environment. Improving HGV standards is also good for drivers and operators. It is the right thing to do for all. I am delighted to have convinced decision makers at County Hall to take swift action and that in such a short time Northumberland is now recognized as a national leader on this issue.” said Cllr Cairns.

Northumberland County Councillor Ian  Swithenbank, cabinet member for local services said:

“ The authority has a fleet of 662 vehicles, 145 of which are over 3.5 ton. Our  refuse wagons go to every corner of the county. It  is therefore really important that we do all we can to minimise their risk on the road and protect our people and our communities. When Cllr Cairns, asked the authority to introduce new safety standards to our fleet, we agreed and have worked very closely with her on the implementation.

“ The conference provided a  great opportunity  to help educate  industry professionals about the latest road safety developments. I  hope our work will inspire others to take action too.”

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