CLOCS away

Lorry and cycle safety scheme takes off in Cambridge

Some may know that last year there was a series of fatal crashes in London involving construction traffic and cycles, and unfortunately these accidents are continuing to happen. Fewer will know that within London for a number of years Crossrail has run a scheme requiring higher standards of driver training, and reporting of traffic incidents for construction traffic involved with that project.

Bitumen lorry blocking cycle lane.
Image as described adjacent

This scheme has been developed and extended by both Transport for London(TfL) and some London boroughs, and it will soon be extended to Cambridge which, as I understand it, will be the first location outside London.

There are three components of the London scheme that have come together under a CLOCS (Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety) banner, although each component can be operated independently. Many major construction projects within London now require all drivers and vehicles, and reporting of incidents, to meet these higher standards, be they for contractors or subcontractors.

First and foremost is driver training. All those operating large goods, passenger or utility vehicles are required to have continued training in order to maintain their licence. One option is a registered Certificate of Professional Competence ‘Safe Urban Driving’ (SUD) module. This normally involves half a day desk training and half a day on a cycle in a local urban street network. That sort of environment would assume Level 3 Bikeability competence. This SUD option must form part of their training.

Secondly, all vehicles must be equipped with the latest standard of mirrors and side-guards. Retrofitting mirrors, including ones to help drivers see the vulnerable area just in front or on the left-hand side, is cheap and easy. Currently, national law exempts certain construction vehicles, such as tipper, skip and concrete lorries, from having side-guards. This is because such vehicles may go off-road where such guards could risk grounding, either causing damage to the guards, or stranding the vehicle. In fact, very few such vehicles now encounter such conditions. In addition, many construction vehicles have greater ground clearance leading to a higher cab and consequential reduced close visibility.

Finally, there is a higher level of reporting to management required for all such construction vehicles on these contracts. Even ‘damage only’ or other infringements must be reported up through the chain to the ‘customer’. This makes it more likely that poor standards of driving, vehicle maintenance or generally poor supervision will be picked up at a higher level before a more serious incident occurs.

So how is this coming to Cambridge?

In order to kick off such a scheme a large organisation needs to take a lead. In London this was Crossrail. The University of Cambridge Estates Division has taken the lead here. A Cambridge CLOCS scheme is covering all construction contracts for the University estate. Initially this is voluntary, but from October these standards will be mandatory. We should congratulate the University for its actions. It is difficult to see a better local organisation to take the lead on such issues.

Can we fly higher?

Of course we can, with extensions to such schemes. In London many bus drivers are now required to have completed SUD courses, Stagecoach East included. When the Campaign approached Stagecoach in Cambridge over a year ago about such courses, we were not dismissed, but told that until such courses were available locally it was considered neither practical nor economic. They are now, and I gather that Stagecoach Cambridge expects all its drivers to be trained by May. All three of our local authorities have control of HGVs and drivers, even if only as contractors or subcontractors. Now that training is available locally should not training of these drivers be a requirement? I’ve heard that the city council is seriously considering this scheme. Also available within London, and covering a wider range of vehicles, is FORS (Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme). This covers a wider range of vehicles and compliance with these standards is compulsory for any organisation obtaining contracts with TfL. I’ve seen FORS stickers on a variety of vehicles in London. At least one local transport company has joined the FORS.

Nothing is perfect

A class of vehicles that’s becoming more common is ‘mobile plant’. Did you know that to drive a huge mobile crane requires little more than a car licence? They are neither goods nor passenger vehicles, and hence fall outside much current legislation. Not only is there an increasing number of mobile cranes on our roads, but also of concrete batching vehicles. These are not the familiar ‘ready-mix’ trucks, but ‘mix-on-site’. For some specialist operations these can be justified, but the suspected reason for growth is the far, far lower rate of tax for such vehicles.

Jim Chisholm

Much of the information about London schemes is available on the web. See: http://www.clocs.org.uk/,
http://www.drivercpctraining.org/c-driver-cpc-tfl-safe-urban-driving.php
and http://www.fors-online.org.uk/