Road Safety News

‘Direct Vision’ lorries would save hundreds of lives: Loughborough University

Monday 29th September 2014

A longer, more aerodynamic cab with better vision for lorry drivers could save the lives of hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians, according to academics at Loughborough University’s Design School.

The proposed new cab, 80cm longer with a rounded nose, smaller dashboard, expanded glazed areas, and a slightly lower driver position, could “drastically reduce” blind spots around the lorry.

The ‘Direct Vision’ lorry concept would increase the driver’s field of view in front and to the sides of the lorry by 50% compared to today’s lorry designs and could save the lives of cyclists and pedestrians.

That’s the major finding of a study by Dr Steve Summerskill and Dr Russell Marshall, from the Loughborough Design School, which was commissioned by Transport for London (TfL) and Transport & Environment (T&E).

Dr Summerskill, project lead, said: “Blind spots can be a significant factor in fatal accidents. The study shows that the size of these blind spots can be minimised through improved cab design, the reduction of cab height and the addition of extra windows.

“This is a key moment in the definition of truck design legislation at the European level. Our work is being used to demonstrate that improvements to vehicle aerodynamics must go hand in hand with improvements that allow heavy goods vehicle drivers to have improved vision of vulnerable road users around the vehicle.”

William Todts, senior policy officer at T&E, said: “Not only drivers, but politicians too need vision.

“It’s incomprehensible that we allow huge 40 ton mammoths on our roads without making sure the people behind the wheel can actually see what’s going on.

“After decades of tinkering with mirrors, we need to take this once-in-a-generation opportunity and make direct vision compulsory for new lorry designs.”


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Not sure how US or Australian cabs would improve matters. Having travelling in both, visibility is hampered by the long bonnet. Also the length of the unit would not be suited to urban use. The best way forward is to adopt better trucks with increased visibility and detection. Both the BMC FG and the Leyland 'Roadrunner' had better visibilty particularly to the nearside.
Olly, Lancs

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If you read this news story together with the one on the news feed about the US mobile 'phone app which warns drivers of cyclists in their immediate vicinity, couldn't that be an answer?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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I like the ideas and anything that affords a better view should be applauded. Let's face it any vehicle that has to have a sticker telling other road users that it has an inherent fault that means the driver cannot see enough to safely manouver should not be on the road.
Duncan McVite

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A suitable truck design already exists. I know of some general haulage companies seriously considering using "Waste collection" spec cabs like the Mercedes Econic but with a typical flat bed/ Curtainsided body.

The driver position is much lower lower than a regular truck, without the use of mirrors, cyclists and pedestrians on the left hand side can be seen. The front left corner blind spot is also significantly reduced. This should reduce the risk for pedestrians, but I don't think it will be as beneficial to cyclists, rear axles being the main hazard.
Finbair, Ireland.

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Although the elimination of blind spots is a laudable aim it must be remembered that the greater the glazed area the less crashworthy a vehicle becomes. A cyclist or motorcyclist is afforded 100% sensory ability, but that comes at the cost of a complete lack of crashworthiness. The question that must be answered therefore is where exactly is the boundary between crashworthiness and sensory ability?
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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I have driven many cars with semaphore indicators since the days they were the norm, and still drive two such, but now also fitted with flashers because these days younger drivers have no understanding whatever of semaphore signals. If they are reintroduced, please improve on the Mickey Mouse designs of Joe Lucas, aka The Prince of Darkness!
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

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Citroen also produced a commercial vehicle with glazed lower portions like the BMC, but I do wonder at some of these University reports. Are people so naive that such factors that are basic commonsense to many need a 'report' announcing something as being new?

Further in their PR page it announces that: "Surprisingly, vehicles changing lanes were responsible for half of all accidents, but no fatalities."

"Surprising" - Really? And with No fatalities?
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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Yes the BMC FG lorry did have glazed lower sections and good visibility. Some even had semaphore signals which would swing out from the cab. Reintroducing the semaphore signal with good LED lighting which extends out from the cab above the desire line of the cyclists might make them more easily seen. Putting all the emphasis on the cyclists safety on the vehicle driver is wrong. Cyclists have to be responsible too. Having driven lorries looking in all the mirrors, gear selection and moving off in the short time a light is green is difficult and the quick look/glance is not enough but is all that sometimes is possible. Adding more windows to scan will make it even harder and human nature suggests there will be shortcuts which could be fatal.
Peter London

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From the focus group in my study regarding pedestrian fatalities, the representative of the FTA commented that they are lobbying both the UK and EU governments to change the design of the front of the cab so that it is longer and lower (I understood along the lines of those used in Australia and the US). In the event, it seems that the three Swedish HGV manufacturers are putting a strong resistance to this change. So a study of this nature can only be helpful to support the case for a better scope of vision for HGV drivers.
Elaine, Northern Ireland

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I recall the BMC FG lorry/van from the 1960s had glazed sections halfway up each of the front corners of the cab making it possible for the driver to see what would otherwise have been below his/her eye-level eg a cyclist waiting alongside at the lights. The downside - reputedly - was that females occupying the driver's or passenger's seats were precluded from wearing skirts!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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