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Vehicle safety

Vehicle safety

With the increasing number of accidents on our roads, never has there been a time when vehicle safety has been such a pressing issue. Skip Hire magazine interviewed John Lancaster of IRIS (International Road Improvement Standards) and Ian Wainwright, Head of Freight and Fleet at TfL (Transport for London) to find out more about new initiatives to monitor driver behaviour and introduce common standards, which will contribute to reducing the number of accidents on our roads.

John Lancaster

John Lancaster

IRIS are a professional working group which researches driver behaviour, including data from road accidents. The core objective of the group is to use the information to come to an agreement with insurers, Government decision makers and road safety groups to introduce common standards which will benefit drivers and improve road safety. 

The group are dedicated to driving forward change in the telematics industry by pushing for a consistent and uniformed process of collecting data from driver behaviour.

Currently, each insurance company collects driver information using different data-capture methods, causing variations between the results. John Lancaster says, “One of the biggest problems is that there is no commonality, so everybody runs with an idea and designs a solution around that and therefore, they are able to categorize their opinion on whether people are good or bad drivers.

“A lot depends on this. For example, an insurer will determine the value of a policy and the risk associated with a policy, depending on the level of the driver.

“For example, if one company were to categorise a driver as high risk with a score of 80, his premium would be a lot higher than if he didn’t have that category. Now, we may take that same driver, and using our algorithms and the way we score a driver – it could be totally different. We could score him as a low risk and a good driver.

“So, the problem is that everybody has an opinion as to how being able to categorise drivers into good, bad or indifferent or whether high risk or low risk has to be done. There’s no commonality and what happens is people can either benefit extensively from it or be penalised, which is a worse scenario.”

IRIS have been persistent in their approach to promoting a standard across the industry in an attempt to promote fairness and equality. Lancaster continues, “We need to develop a common standard and that has to be able to identify:

  • “What are the things we categorise as risks in driving?
  • “How do we measure them?
  • “How often do we measure them?
  • “And, how do we score them?”

One of the key issues that IRIS are concerned with, is the anomalies of data captured between different insurance companies. IRIS believe that introducing a common standard across the board would result in the same outcomes, therefore promoting fairness for drivers. Lancaster says, “If we all did exactly the same, then it wouldn’t matter if a driver moved between companies as the scores would be consistent with all of those different insurance underwriters.”

Using standardised telematics based on the behaviour of the driver will not only become a more equalised process based on factual data, but allow insurance companies to determine potential risk levels. Lancaster says, “Instead of people paying for insurance on the type of vehicle they drive, the postcode they live in or previous history; they can get insured on how good or how bad a driver they are. So, it’s a much fairer way of being able to proportion risk in the insurance industry.”

IRIS believe that by introducing this standard, the efficiency and therefore safety of vehicles on our roads will significantly improve. Lancaster adds, “It’s a much better way to identify if there are issues with the vehicle. For example, this technology connects into the vehicle’s engine management unit. That means every time there is an issue within the vehicle, the driver may not even be aware as it hasn’t materialised as a fault on the dashboard. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, it just means that it hasn’t reached a level whereby it’s going to cause damage to the vehicle.

“The technology will tell you the part number, the skillset of the engineer that needs to go out and it tells them how long it’s going to take to resolve the problem. Also, because of the GPS, it shows them where the vehicle is.

“So what it ultimately means is that you can be more proactive in managing potential faults before they arise and become a major problem.”

IRIS believe that capturing data from each driver will result in being able to identify risks accurately and factually. Lancaster says, “I think we all fall into bad habits as time develops and one of the biggest problems that we have is that you get this syndrome where somebody will say ‘Hey that was really risky’ and then you’ll say ‘No, it wasn’t’ because you don’t think it was. But, then if we have the capabilities to physically show you that – either with video footage or as a trail on a map as to what you did, your whole outlook on that particular incident changes.”

Utilising physical evidence of driver behaviour will ensure that drivers are accurately pinpointed in the case of an incident, “We’ve been shown video footage of people who were in denial and then we’ve shown them the video footage. Then they’ve said ‘Hmm, maybe I was to blame.’

“So, it’s all about being able to accurately record data – not to proportion blame, but to identify – Was there risk? Is there something that people can do and be more aware of that would help to minimise that risk?”

Lancaster believes this standard would have an overall positive impact on the industry, “The way I look at it is if by having this standard, if we are able to save one life, then it’s all been worthwhile. It is all about saving lives and trying to make people more aware and drive more safely.”

Implementing a common standard in the industry isn’t without its past challenges for IRIS and competitive awareness is one issue that the working group have faced, “I think breaking down that barrier has perhaps been the hardest thing to do. However, I believe it’s now happened.”

Tenacity and determination has certainly paid off for the group, with more organisations uniting and agreeing that this approach could be a satisfactory outcome for the vehicle industry overall. Representatives from the Government’s Parliamentary Advisory Group for Transport Safety, the Transport Research Laboratory, vehicle manufacturers, insurers, telematics companies and risk assessors attended the first meeting this year to discuss the potentials of introducing the standard. Lancaster adds, “I spoke to an associate recently, who is 76 years old. He said ‘This is the first time in my lifetime that everybody who is interested in road safety, vehicle design, telematics and insurance have come collectively together in one room for a common cause.”

The future objectives for IRIS are to actively promote the standard further than the UK, “Where I would like to get to (and this is why we’ve involved Parliament) is that this becomes a mandatory requirement that every vehicle manufactured globally is capable of identifying driving standards.”

Ian Wainwright

Ian Wainwright

TfL have recently introduced the Safer Lorry Scheme, which requires all HGVs in London to have mirrors and sideguards on their vehicles. The move, introduced on the 1st September 2015, was implemented in an effort to reduce the number of lorry-related deaths in the capital. Under the scheme, operators who do not have these features on their vehicles, risk facing a fine of up to £1,000.

According to See Me Save Me, the campaign website set up by RoadPeace (the dedicated charity for road accident victims), one in 13 cyclists who are hit by a HGV will die, in contrast to one in 652 who are hit by a car.

One of the reasons the Safer Lorry Scheme was introduced was due to the predicted population increase in the City of London, with growing numbers of cyclists and pedestrians, it is essential that road safety is a key issue. Ian Wainwright says, “In London, we have a situation whereby the population is growing – about 1.7 million people over the next 15 years, and in addition, there has been a number of high-profile incidents, most noticeably around cycling, with heavy goods vehicles in particular.

“In that process, we also have a target from the Mayor in terms of reducing the number of people seriously injured by 50 per cent.

“If you put all those things together and say ‘What is incompatible here?’ It’s because, people still need to be able to share the road space. But, we do need to do something about vehicle safety around cyclists but also around pedestrians.”

After extensive research and studying at driver behaviour and accident data, TfL concluded that larger vehicles were a concern to the safety of road users. Wainwright adds, “What we have clearly identified are the main issues are to do with the visibility of the heavy goods vehicle drivers.

Under the scheme, any vehicle over 3.5 tonnes, which was previously exempt is now required to:

  • Be fitted with Class V and Class VI mirrors giving the driver a better view of cyclists and pedestrians around their vehicles
  • Be fitted with side guards to protect cyclists from being dragged under the wheels in the event of a collision (Transport for London, 2015)


Wainwright continues, “The main principle of the Safer Lorry Scheme is to do with the vision of construction vehicles, and waste being part of the process, we had a situation whereby there was this exemption for the retrofitting of the mirrors and for sideguards for vehicles going off-road.

“When you look at the majority of these vehicles, they are operating on city streets for much of the time and may be off-road for a very small proportion of the time, but given that 8.6 million people upwards live in the city – is it right that vehicles, which are designed to go to a quarry or a skip site are driving around city streets without basic safety features that every other HGV should have?”

Implementing the scheme and monitoring HGV drivers will be by way of legal enforcement. Wainwright continues, “The principle of the Safer Lorry Scheme is through a Traffic Regulation Order, which can be enforced by the police, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and the combined regulatory task force which we’ve set up.

“We will look at general road safety in London, to enforce against people that have not retrofitted these things. We’re not looking to just monitor it and count it, we will go out there and enforce against people that have not responded to the scheme.

“The congestion charge in the centre of London is run on a camera system, but because the safer Lorry Scheme is a retrofit, it needs to be done by physically seeing the mirrors and sideguards are fitted. Sideguards obviously can be removable if the vehicle happens to be going off-road a lot, but when it comes into London, we would expect those sideguards to be fitted.”

Addressing the issue of road safety was by way of finding a solution that was doable and wouldn’t be too challenging for HGV users. Wainwright says, “When we first put out the Safer Lorry Scheme consultation, we deliberately talked about what technical issues would be faced to make sure that we weren’t putting in place a scheme that people couldn’t meet.  As a result, there are very few exemptions to the scheme.”

“By talking with the trade associations about the specifications, we think we’ve got a sensible scheme in place.”

Transport for London, along with other organisations will continue to look at road safety longer term measures. Wainwright says, “Having identified back in 2013, the issue between construction vehicles and cyclists and pedestrians, we’ve been doing a lot on general vehicle safety.

“We’re looking to develop a direct vision standard, specifying how much a driver can see from his vehicle and once we’ve got those, we will work with the trade associations and manufacturers on that.

“What we are trying to do is cover the whole behavioural change side of things, but we are also providing all of the physical infrastructure, such as putting in place new super-cycle highways and really trying to make sure that we make the city as cycle-friendly as possible.”

Similar to IRIS, for Transport for London, the core objective overall is to save lives and reduce the number of serious road accidents. Wainwright concludes, “The ultimate objective is – we would like to be in a situation where there are no fatalities on London’s roads at all, but realistically what we have to do, is rather than put a nominal target on it, we’re taking practical steps to make sure that can be achieved. So things like making sure that the vehicles are as safe as possible, making sure that the drivers are trained, making sure that all road users are aware of their own responsibilities – those are the things that we can do.

“We are trying to make sure that we encourage individuals to take their own responsibility. There are a whole series of regulations and legislation, however enforcement is what we need to do to make sure that people realise that this is serious stuff.”

To find out more about IRIS, visit: https://goo.gl/t5aCyi

To find out more about Transport for London and the Safer Lorry Scheme, visit: https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/freight/safer-lorry-scheme

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