Labour shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle has called on ministers to abandon plans to introduce longer lorries on British roads in the light of new research into the risk that HGVs pose to cyclists.

“Ministers must start listening to the emergency services who each week are faced with the appalling consequences of the failure to improve safety for cyclists,” said Eagle this week.

“Medical evidence shows that cyclists involved in a collision with an HGV are more likely to be severely injured and have a higher mortality rate. These deaths and serious injuries are preventable but require a real political will which currently seems to be lacking.”

The proposed increase in maximum lorry length by 2.05 metres to 18.75 metres was announced by road minister Mike Penning a year ago. The announcement led to widespread criticism by road safety groups, particularly after Penning admitted that cycle safety factors were not included in research on longer lorries. Trials of extended HGVs commenced in October 2011.

Labour held a cycle safety summit on March 1, which was attended by representatives from a host of British cycling organisations including British Cycling, CTC, Sustrans, RoadPeace and London Cycling Campaign. Motoring and transport organisations were also present.

As a result of the summit, Labour drew up a package of proposed measures to increase cycle safety in Britain. As part of these proposals, Labour want all future road and other major transport schemes to be subjected to a cycle safety assessment prior to approval.

Labour also wants to see part of the road budget allocated each year to improve existing road infrastructure to improve safety for cyclists and the re-introduction of national death and injury reduction targets.

A recent all-party Parliamentary debate on cycle safety – held on February 23 – has resulted in a House of Commons inquiry into cyclist deaths and serious injuries scheduled for after Easter.

Heavy Goods Vehicle danger

Research carried out by Queen Mary University, London Helicopter Emergency Medical Service and the Trauma Clinical Academic Unit at the Royal London found that HGVs are more likely to inflict serious injury or death to road users than any other vehicle.

British Cycling’s Martin Gibbs, policy and legal affairs director, agrees with Labour’s statement that longer HGVs should be scrapped in the light of the medical evidence.

“While cycling is not an intrinsically dangerous activity, it’s clear that – where road collisions do occur – they tend to be more serious where they involve HGVs,” said Gibbs.

“That’s why we’re campaigning for the Department for Transport’s trial of longer articulated HGVs to be suspended until a proper safety assessment has been carried out. We also want all lorries operating on our roads to be compulsorily fitted with side bars and the latest standard of mirrors, without exception.

“More people are cycling than ever before and we want to encourage even more, whether it’s for sport, recreation or getting to work. Ensuring that Britain’s roads are as safe as possible for all road users is a major factor in inspiring more people to get on their bikes.”

Related links



June 2011: CTC in fight to stop longer lorries



Comment: Killer drivers should be sentenced appropriately

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  • Graeme

    Both Chris and Terry make some valid comments but the question remains, do we *need* these vehicles & if we don’t and if their safety or lack of it is still open to question, then why even bother?

    Better, if such vehicles are *really* only to be used for trunking, to look at rail. But that of course means looking at rail provision to logistics hubs that have been built on arterial roads, as we weren’t bright enough to see this one coming.

    I live in a small market town that has a trunk road running through the middle of it (A509). This is not a major road and the M1 runs parallel to it, but we still get a lot of HGVs through town as it’s fractionally shorter for them to come through our town from some of the towns North of us to get to the M1, than it is to use a Motorway junction to our North – so we’ll probably see these even larger trucks trying to negotiate our busy town centre – so even if they are used “only for trunking” it will still cause problems witha mixture of traffic, pedestrian, cycles, cars and trucks in a restricted space.

    So “only for trunking” does not necessarily mean “no additional hazard to other road users” …. and just because we have 15m coaches with no RWS, so what? Is this a contest to see who can pee highest, road freight or PSV?

    Turning circles don’t generally include tail-swing or overlap by the way … the actual space occupied by the turning vehicle is not reflected by the turning circle. If you want an extreme example that involves two sets of turning wheels, think of a railway coach on two sets of bogies … that can turn really tightly, but the potential for overlap onto an adjacent rail line is the reason that we have the railway coach / flatbed length limits that we do, and the guage and railbed spacings that we do … RWS is a spurious arguement in this context.

    Last – I think HMG need to grow the will to resit the road transport lobbies’ constant bleat and whinge and to look at what HGVs are doing to our road networks generally – the damage caused to road beds, kerbs and the like are part of the hazard that cyclists face and are contributory factors in accidents even where other vehicles are not directly involved – something that many in the pro HGV lobby seem to filter out of their conciousness ….

  • terry hammond

    Not this old chestnut again! There only 900 trailers at the maximum length and 900 1m longer out of a total of 450,000 HGV’s and will mainly be confined to inter depot runs rather than in towns. Lets remember that 15m 3 axle coaches, an extension of 3m, are now allowed and they don’t have a rear steer axle and are more likely found in towns.
    A bad driver is a bad driver no matter whet vehicle is involved and the drivers of the longer trailers will be getting extra training over and above the normal standard.
    There should be a focus on more down to earth road safety before jumping on this particular bandwagon !!

  • chris cunningham

    Most accidents that involve hgv’s seem to be with tippers and cement mixers, which are rigid hgv’s.
    Most long artic hgv’s will be used on trunking and delivery to distribution centres, not delivering around city and town centres.
    The new long lenght trailers have the same turning circle as normal trailers via the use of steering axles, so they shoudn’t be any different to drive, they shoudn’t cut in any more.