Trucks are not responsible for every cyclist that gets killed.

May 13th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

*Why* should there be blind spots, and *why* should cyclists even have to keep themselves out of them? This is an utter disaster

I’m guessing the “utter disaster”refers to an accident, so we’ll leave that as I don’t know the accident and so can’t comment on it. The rest of the tweet is the sort of attitude that gets cyclists killed and lorry drivers unfairly blamed.

I feel I’ve quite a rounded experience of the roads. I’ve driven trucks. I’m also a cyclist. I don’t have the experience of cycling in a major city like London but I’ve still done my share of miles on all sorts of roads. Just for the record, I also drive a car and ride motorbikes, although I’ve not done the latter for a few years now.

Taking the first part of the tweet: Why should trucks have blind spots?

Well, the simple answer is, they shouldn’t really. The law stipulates that trucks have a minimum number of mirrors and the area of coverage they give.

The following image (from here) is the best I could find to simply show what mirrors have to be fitted to UK trucks. Oh, click to enlarge any of the following images…

In the UK though, the Class V kerb mirror should be on the kerbside, the left of the truck.

What do all those mirrors mean?

The Class II main mirror has the following field of vision. On a rigid vehicle it is a Class III, with a slightly different field of vision but the end result is essentially the same.

The Class IV wide angle mirrors shows the following…

The Class V kerb mirror and Class VI front mirror have the following fields of vision…

And what sort of coverage does all that add up to?

Pretty comprehensive, wouldn’t you agree? There is no mirror coverage directly outside the cab on the drivers side as the driver doesn’t need a mirror to see that area and the tiny gap twix the kerb mirror and the rear view mirrors on the nearside of the vehicle doesn’t, in reality, exist. If any of those mirrors are broken or missing, it’s not just a case of it not passing it’s equivalent of the MOT, but the VOSA, and the police, could issue a GV9 there and then at the roadside. A GV9 prevents the vehicle from being moved until the fault has been rectified. A car driver would just be told to get it fixed as soon as possible.

It would’ve been nice to have front mirrors required to be retro-fitted to existing vehicles too, not just new vehicles, but as older vehicles wouldn’t have mounting brackets and would require quite a bit of work to do, it is arguably not practical. It would be opening a right can of worms with operators and such risking more dangers by bodging the mirrors on.

In 2009 a new specification of mirrors gave the coverage shown above. All trucks registered after the year 2000 had to be fitted with them. Not just new, every truck on the road had to have these new mirrors. The front mirror was introduced on new trucks from 2007.

This image shows the coverage of the old mirrors versus the new mirrors. The yellow is the old style and the orange (is it orange?) colour is the new…

Those images are from somewhere on this site.

There you go then. All the mirrors overlap in their field of vision, which wasn’t the case before 2009, and the field of vision provided by the mirrors has been improved greatly. The only real, unavoidable blindspot is directly behind the truck and that is taken care of by responsible truck operators with camera systems with a monitor in the cab that switch on when the vehicle engages reverse gear. These modern camera systems even have microphones. Some operators even fit cameras to the sides of vehicles, although that is most common on municipal vehicles with side loading mechanisms.

Now we know that there are no blindspots on a truck the second part of that tweet, “*why* should cyclists even have to keep themselves out of them?” could be rephrased. Maybe to something like “Why should cyclists be wary of something that could kill them without even knowing about it?”, which pretty much answers itself.

When I was learning to drive a car, my instructed gave me two pieces of advice: to treat every other road user like an idiot, like they don’t know what they’re doing and so will be unpredictable and ; lorries have the right of weight. Both pieces have, on occasion, saved my bacon.

The problem comes not through blind spots but from the truck driver only having one pair of eyes. It doesn’t matter how many screens or mirrors a truck is fitted with, the driver can only look in one direction at a time.

Again, when I learnt to drive a truck, my instructor drilled it into me to use the mirrors all the time. When you put it in gear, when you release the park brake, not just before you indicate but when you think about manoeuvring. When you speed up, when you slow down. You use the mirrors to check your positioning on the road, to help you gauge how far from the kerb you are. All the time your head is sweeping left to right and back again. When I started I wondered how the buggery I was supposed to find time to look forward!

Even with a fully aware driver, a bike can nip into where the truck is going without the driver spotting it.

What it comes down to is being aware how other vehicles on the road behave. Articulated trucks don’t follow the same line through roundabouts as cars, for instance.

Why would you not give something that size a bit of space and patience? Not every accident involving a bike and a lorry is the fault of the lorry driver.

As a cyclist, you are ultimately responsible for your own safety, just like every other road user is. Yes, other road users also have a responsibility not to kill you, but ride like a dick and you’re gonna get hurt.

Learn about how trucks need to navigate the roads and give them a bit of space. It could save your life.

If you really want to read the legislation on truck mirrors it’s here, here, here and here.

I like trucking

January 25th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Look at all those forrin’ trucks, coming over here, using our roads. Using them for free, too!

Foreign trucks don’t pay to use our roads we British drivers pay an annual fee to licence our vehicles to use them where as over in Europe they have a system of tolls. The British have a contract, with unlimited miles included, where as the Europeans have a Pay-as-You-Go system, if you like.

This, for us, is indeed not business friendly for the haulage industry, as the British vehicles have to subsidise the wear and tear, and damage done to the roads of foreign vehicles, whilst British hauliers, even if the vehicle is abroad the majority of the time, have to pay British road tax and all the tolls and charges of the European countries they visit.

So what’s the British government proposing?

A proposal to charge foreign-registered lorries up to £10 a day to drive on the UK’s roads is due to be outlined.

The government says the current system is unfair and is launching a consultation on the plan.

Foreign hauliers drive around the UK for free, while UK firms pay road tolls or daily rates to drive across Europe.

Legally, ministers cannot discriminate between UK and EU lorries so all trucks will be charged up to £10 a day, but British hauliers would get a refund.

That sounds fair enough, doesn’t it? Two things jumped out at me though.

The first is why complicate things with having this charge *and* road tax *and* giving a refund? It’s a recipe for disaster. Incorrect charging, missed refunds and all sorts. Why not simplify the system by getting rid of the road tax for commercial vehicles and apply the daily charge to *all* commercial vehicles in the UK? I understand this is just a proposal so they probably haven’t thought past the picking a daily figure out of their arse, but the more times money is passed back and forth, the more likely it is something will go wrong, and if it’s gonna go wrong it’s gonna be the haulier that will get fucked by late refunds and appeals and shit like that.

The second point is up to £10 a day! That is a huge amount. I would bet my hat that no commercial vehicle pays that amount at the moment. I realise this is just a proposal, and that it is *up to* £10 a day, but that is way out, even for a proposal that has been thrown out the door to see what reaction it gets.

The licencing of commercial vehicles is not the simplist of things, as there are so many different types of vehicles, and combinations of different types of vehicles with so many different uses. I had a quick squint at the website about the cost of licencing a HGV and the biggest charge for road tax on a truck was £2585 per annum. Have a look for yourself if you want, here. This works out to £7.08 per day for a very large load vehicle with no Reduced Pollution Certificate. For even bigger vehicles that tax wouldn’t go up much, and if fact dropps dramatically, because they are not used *all* the time or are just used for the beginning and end legs of journeies, where the middle bit of the journey is by rail of water.

For the more usual class of HGV (3 axle tractor, 2 axle trailer, with reduced pollution Certificate and road friendly suspension) the figure is twenty quid shy of £1600. This works out at £4.33 per day. Less that half of what could be charged under this proposal.

The UK cannot dicriminate between UK and foreign trucks, so the charge will have to be the same (for each class of vehicle) whether a UK truck or one from abroad, so it is not going to be simple case of collecting cash as the truck rolls off the ferry. Why make it more complicated with having the road tax and refunds in the mix?

This could be good. the extra cash raised from the foreign trucks, at no cost to UK ones, would help the government coffers. If the government was feeling generous (stop laughing at the back!) they could drop the daily rate, still have the same income (due to more trucks paying) and that would help lower some of the costs the UK haulage industry which is already struggling to keep it’s head above water due to fuel prices.

But if the government can’t even have a look to see what trucks are currently paying per day to go out on a policy proposal, then I can’t really see then doing this a) the best way or b) not fucking it up whichever way they decide to do it.

And no post about trucking would be complete without a song…

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