A new study by researchers at Loughborough University shows how blind spots in HGVs could be significantly reduced with a modified cab design that takes advantage of proposed new EU rules on lorry dimensions.
The Loughborough team’s design would have an 80cm longer cab with a rounded nose, smaller dashboard, expanded glazed areas and a slightly lower driver position, panoramically expanding the range of sight from behind the wheel.
The study included analysis of data covering 1,906 UK accidents involving HGVs to ascertain the most important driver vision issues to address. It points out that drivers currently have to check up to six mirrors before making a manoeuvre, by which time a cyclist could undertake the HGV, with the driver left unaware of his or her presence. “The combination of the difficulty in scanning multiple mirrors, the distorted image that they provide, and difficulty in using the mirrors in low light conditions means that improving the ability of drivers to see obstacles directly through windows is recommended,” the researchers conclude.
According to ETSC data, around 4300 people died in collisions involving lorries in 2011. Because of their size and weight, crashes can be catastrophic with a much higher risk of death or serious injury.
A study carried out for the European Commission estimates that as many as 500 lives could be saved every year if the cabs were made safer.
The current EU law on weight and dimensions of lorries has led to a design that has particularly large blind spots. The proposal to revise these rules, currently being discussed by the EU institutions, would allow (but not mandate) slightly longer (80-90cm), more aerodynamic lorry designs. New designs would need to comply with additional safety requirements but these still need to be developed.