Trucks in the City: “Victim-blaming” director of London waste firm to speak at Dublin seminar

A “Trucks in the City” seminar — supported by two state bodies — will this morning include a guest speaker who said cyclists should “stop acting the victim” and “should pay insurance to use public roads”. 

The seminar, entitled Trucks in the City, is aimed at highlighting “road safety issues surrounding trucks and the vulnerable road user in urban areas.”

Jacqueline O’Donovan, managing director of O’Donovan Waste Disposal spoke out after UK-based cycling groups were critical of “victim-blaming” safety campaigns which were viewed as putting most or all of the responsibility for safety around trucks onto cyclists.

Her comments also came after the mayor of London announced that thousands of trucks with poor visibility could be banned from London’s streets after the number of deaths of cyclists involved with collisions with trucks continued to mount last year.

In September, we reported how a study found that truck blind spots can range from “virtually none” to meters where cyclists are hidden from driver’s view.

A promo for the Dublin event — supported by both the Road Safety Authority and the Health and safety Authority — says that O’Donovan will be “providing an operator testimonial”.

Last year O’Donovan wrote an article asking “Should cyclists pay insurance to use public roads?”. In that article published on recyclingwasteworld.co.uk, she wrote: “Cyclist insurance is also paramount so that drivers are equally protected if there is a collision caused by cyclist error.”

O’Donovan said: “I would like to see bikes issued with an individual ID number, to enable behaviours to change due to repercussions of illegal acts, such as jumping red lights and allowing fines to be issued where necessary.”

Also last year, Commercial Fleet, a publication aimed at businesses with large truck and van fleets, quoted O’Donovan as saying that cycling groups are “spending too much time pointing the finger and not enough time on the issues that really matter when it comes to road safety”.

And she said: “Instead of playing the victim and moaning about the ‘Hang Back’ stickers on the back of lorries, cycling groups should be educating their members.”

Although, there are a number of things which she has said that cyclists might agree with, including the idea that cycling groups work with truck operators on safety campaigns and that cyclists should “limit headphones to one ear, so they can hear the audible warnings when a lorry is turning.” Although, truck turning audible warnings are not that common in Ireland.

Explaining some cyclists’ annoyance at a recent UK campaigns directed towards cyclists, Duncan Dollimore, senior road safety and legal campaigns officer at Cycling UK, said: “The message appears to be that you wouldn’t intentionally put yourself in the middle of two colliding objects, so why would you put yourself on a bicycle between a turning lorry and a kerb.”

He adds: “You might not have chosen to put yourself in that position; the lorry might have overtaken you… the Department for Transport message at least implies that if you do, then it is your fault if something awful happens.”

In a promo for the event in Dublin today, Jarlath Sweeney of Fleet Transport, an Irish publication which is organising the event, said: “We have covered the Construction Logistics & Cyclists Safety (CLOCS) and the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) initiatives undertaken to date in London on a number of occasions and wish to outline what has been achieved in saving the lives of cyclists and pedestrians. ‘Trucks in the City’ will highlight the dangers and solutions over a series of presentations and open discussion.”

He added: “In light of recent incidents and fatalities involving vulnerable road users and trucks and with the construction industry in Dublin on the up again, I think the timing is right to raise the issue to the transport industry in general and get a feel for a similar type of implementation here. Other sectors featured include city/town distribution, parcel couriers, utilities and city and local authorities, waste removal etc.”
The event will also host a display of trucks designed to be safer in urban areas, as well as equipment aimed at reducing blind spots in trucks.

The event is to be chaired by Superintendent Con O’Donohue of the Garda Traffic Corp and is set to be presentations by the Health & Safety Authority; Road Safety Authority; Transport for London; CLOCS – (Construction Logistics & Cyclist Safety); FORS – (Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme); and Construction Industry Federation.

7 Comments

  1. Stephen McManus January 16, 2017 at 9:52 am

    The cyclists’ reply should be that if she, as the owner of the trucks, fails to mitigate for the large blind spots before sending them out on the road and they kill people, she is guilty of criminal negligence.

  2. I was one of three Cyclist.ie representatives who attended this seminar today. I regard it as unacceptable that we were not accorded speaking rights by invitation since the sole issue was safety of VRUs in cities. I doubt if one of the speakers was a cyclist. What compounds the oversight is the RSA and the HSA were clearly involved in the inception of the programme and both state quangos know us well.
    We did ask the panel if they could comment on the refusal of the EU manufacturers of semi-trailer rigs to re-design the tractor cab so as to provide the driver with direct vision. We received no enlightenment on that score.
    What we all have to remember is that the same truck manufacturers point out that these rigs are not designed for intra-urban use but rather for motorway/dual-carriageway transport of goods. So why are our road authorities granting the operators of them unfettered access to urban areas?
    A few professional drivers came to talk to us afterwards and they were of the view, which we share, that more technology around/in the cab (mirrors, CCTV screens, warning sounds, etc.) is not the way to go – it leads to intense distracted driving.

  3. Not wanting lots of screens and sounds in the cab is fine so long as it isn’t just an excuse to maintain the status quo. The trucking industry has correctly shown that their vehicles are deadly dangerous. The solution is not for cyclists to keep at least 5m away from them at all times, it is for them to fix the design or take them off the road.

    An audible warning that only goes off when they are about to crush a cyclist or pedestrian does not seem like a distraction. Nobody today would complain about wing mirrors being intensely distracting, since it seems that the design of trucks and their mirrors is not fit for purpose I don’t understand how replacing a wing mirror with a screen that actually shows what the driver needs to see is intensely distracting.

  4. HivemindX – If only it were that simple to fix! You are right that a single VDU screen to be scanned by a driver after a proximity-alert in the cab is probably easier that scanning 5-mirror facets.
    But remember the screen display is only as good as the optical feed from the cameras placed around the truck. Do remember that trucks throw up a spray-curtain in wet weather so how are camera lenses expected to remain clear under those conditions?
    Please also realise that external mirrors (and the truck cab nearside window) are occluded by rain drops when it rains so the facets are very difficult to read/scan. The centrally placed one over the windscreen may not be easily viewed if the windscreen wipers fail to sweep a clear path to enable the driver to clearly see out to it.
    Distracted driving is a serious road safety issue and any solutions should not add to the drivers inattention loading.
    The fundamental issue is that the manufacturers make these trucks for inter-urban use on motorways/dual-ways; They are not meant to be used in intra-urban congested roads/streets other than by permit and with routing direction.

  5. If there are insurmountable problems with making these trucks safe for use in the city then they should be completely eliminated from the city streets.

    It seems that the trucking industry thinks they are being offered the choice between implementing a bunch of difficult and expensive safety measures are continuing to kill vulnerable road user and they are choosing to keep killing people. If they were told that operating a truck with huge blind spots and turning when you have no idea if there is someone in the blind spot would result in manslaughter charges for the driver and the company directors I feel they would find a solution they can deal with.

  6. I concur with Hivemindx, If trucks are unsafe to use, then they should be banned.
    We have all this bruhaha about diesel engines and the potential for increased mortality, but nothing about the direct killing of innocent people by people driving trucks when they cant see it’s safe to drive them.

  7. If cameras are a distraction, then the trucks are too much for a single person to conduct and require a support person for these manoeuvres to look out the window and even get out of the truck to give instructions.

    Otherwise ban them all together and, as HivemindX said, bring criminal charges into the picture. Accidents are supposed to be freak events, these deaths are not, they are predictable and avoidable.

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