— Better design “could save hundreds of pedestrian and cyclists’ lives”
— EU 2028 deadline “not justifiable” given better designs available already
— Truck cab designs with direct views more reliable than mirrors
Research from the UK — covering trucks widely used in Ireland — shows a stark difference in the level of blind spots depending on the design of the truck’s cab — these blind spots effectively make cyclists and pedestrians invisible to truck drivers sitting in their cabs.
Blindspots in trucks have been linked to a large percentage of cyclist deaths. A Dublin City Council report found that between 2002-2006 nearly 75% of cyclists deaths, 8 of 11 deaths, were related to trucks turning left.
Last week, Donna Fox was killed in a left turning truck collision in Dublin’s north Docklands and, in March, a female cyclist was left with serious leg injuries in a collision with a truck turning left at Charlemont Bridge on the southside of the city.
Urban delivery trucks have blind spots up to 1.9 metres but the trucks of the best design have “virtually none”, according to a study by Loughborough Design School at the Loughborough University in England.
The study confirms the contention of Irish cycling campaigners that larger construction trucks and long-haul trucks are even less suitable for urban roads. It shows that the higher placement of the driver’s cabs impacts on the drivers views of cyclists and pedestrians.
European transport group, Transport and Environment, said that the Loughborough study shows that better design “could save hundreds of pedestrian and cyclists’ lives”. It added that the study “finds huge differences in the direct vision – what drivers can see with their own eyes – of best and worst-in-class trucks in all categories, and that ‘low-entry cabs’ like the Mercedes Econic out perform all of today’s best performing vehicles.”
A P-Series truck, from truck maker Scania, was rated at the best of its class with zero blind spots — this could go a long way to explaining why the makers of a Road Safety Authority video using another P-Series truck reportedly had to fake blind spots last year.
Mandatory extra mirrors has been EU policy to try to reduce collisions with people cycling and walking but researchers point out that blind spots remain on many trucks and improving direct vision may be a better policy than improving indirect vision using mirrors.
“In theory these mirrors should eliminate a large part of the blind spot around the truck cab. However, mirrors provide a distorted image: often only (a small) part of the cyclist or pedestrian is clearly visible. Drivers also need to check several mirrors which often are not correctly adjusted. This may help explain why the fitting of extra mirrors has not produced the safety improvements that were initially expected,” said Transport and Environment in a briefing paper on the research.
It added that there are benefits in eye contact and “there is broad agreement among experts that improved direct vision would be highly effective in preventing casualties”.
The EU currently has a deadline of 2028 for improved vision in trucks but Transport and Environment said: “Given that better vision cabs are already available on the market and in all market segments (best in class, smarter configurations, low entry vehicles) a 2028 deadline is not justifiable.”
William Todts, freight director at Transport and Environment, said: “It’s shocking that are there are such large differences between perfectly similar trucks. It shows that some truck makers aren’t factoring in cyclist or pedestrian safety when designing new vehicles. The solution is obvious: we need direct vision standards for trucks. With so many people dying, we can’t afford to wait until 2028. This needs to happen much quicker.”
Dr Steve Summerskill, the principle investigator of the study and senior lecturer at the Loughborough Design School, said: “Blind spots can be a significant factor in fatal accidents with trucks. Our study shows that the size of these blind spots is mainly determined by the height of the driver above the ground, but that the design of the cab can also have a significant effect. Reducing the height at which the truck driver sits, combined with improved window and cab interior design, can greatly reduce the size of blind spots and save hundreds of lives.”
The Loughborough researchers looked mainly at typical non-low entry trucks and split them into three categories urban delivery trucks, construction trucks and long-haul trucks. The following are a summary of the results: