This year, London was the site of many changes. With the Ultra Low Emission Zone expanding, engine specifications for HGV updating, the implementation of the new Direct Vision Standard, and an update to the Highway Code, a lot has happened that could affect your work and travels. However, if you are operating a Bucher Municipal sewer cleaner these rules may not apply…

The current Direct Vision Standard announced in 2021 means an HGV vehicle must meet at least a 1 out of 5 star safety requirement in order to be permitted within London, and going forward into 2024, HGV’s rating below 3 stars will not be allowed within some London borders without facing a penalty fine. These safety features focus on how much direct vision the driver has of the road, cyclists and pedestrians while inside the cab. If your vehicle does not meet the requirements set out by Transport For London, then there are measures that can be implemented in order to improve the field of vision for vehicles. These include camera monitoring systems, sensor systems, driver alerts, and class V/VI mirrors.

Bucher Municipal believe that the safety of road users is paramount. In 2013 alone, HGV’s were involved in over 60% of incidents leading to cyclist fatalities in London. This isn’t an isolated issue - high mortality rates that involve HGV’s are nationwide. HGV’s make up only 2% of the vehicles on the road across Europe but are involved in 15% of fatal road collisions.

These figures have prompted other European cities to follow in London’s footsteps, nine other major cities including Berlin, Paris and Stockholm have also agreed to introduce a direct vision standard, therefore it is only a matter of time before other UK cities follow suit.

Sewer cleaners however are exempt from this new law. Being stationary while working and the necessity of sewer cleaners in London means any sewer cleaner operating within these borders do not need to make these direct vision changes and will not incur a fine. They do still need to apply for a permit through the TFL website, but this is free and a very quick process.

Similarly, as of the end of January this year, new Highway Code regulations were set in place to protect more vulnerable road users. All road users must follow these new laws. The main change that has the most impact on HGV’s is the new road user hierarchy, whereby the vehicle (or user) that could cause more damage in a collision, takes more responsibility. Another change is that pedestrians are given more right of way at junctions and crossings, with those waiting to cross having the right of way over vehicles turning into or out of those roads.

In other changes, October 2021 saw the Ultra Low Emission Zone for London widen. Now, vehicles that do not comply with the low emission standards will receive fines of £12.50 a day. The move has prompted other cities to implement similar operations with Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, and Portsmouth the next on the list to start.

The ULEZ was introduced as a need to improve air quality and the health of those in the capital. Air quality is measured by how clean the surrounding air is. This is measured by analysing the concentration of certain pollutants in the air including smoke, dust, smog, harmful chemicals and, most notably, Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5).

Inhalable Particular Matter (PM10 and PM2.5) is most common in cities and on roadways. The main source of PM emissions is from internal combustion engines and dust. These particulates settle on surfaces, then when a vehicle drives over it, the gusts produced from that movement cause the particulates to become airborne, mixing with the air and lowering the air quality.

These particulates are the main cause of human health issues from poor air quality. The exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 has been shown to have a significant detriment to lung and heart health and an increase in respiratory diseases such as asthma. Therefore, reduced air pollution indicates better health for those who spend a significant amount of time on and around roadways.

One study (Kumari Et al., 2020) showed that the significant reduction in air pollution during lockdown was due to lower levels of PM2.5, PM10 and NO2. This improvement in air quality was witnessed across the globe, however it was proven to be temporary because once lockdown restrictions lifted, the pollution levels once again increased.

London has introduced the Low Emission Zone and the Ultra Low Emission Zone as a way to combat the air quality crisis and to reduce the number of particulate-producing vehicles driving through the city… And it’s working.

In an evaluation by the Greater London Authority and the effectiveness of the ULEZ, they found that although there was a “substantial and immediate improvement in air quality in recent years, significant work remains to bring London’s pollution down to levels where it does not have a harmful impact on public health.”

Similar to the Direct Vision Standard, sewer cleaners are also exempt from the ULEZ. Again, a permit is required for the exemption but this is also free.

As well as the broadening of the ULEZ, the engine standard for HGV lorries changed as an additional measure to cut down on air pollution. If using a diesel engine, a lorry must have a Euro VI engine (previously Euro IV) in order to comply with the Low Emission Zone and avoid a daily fine. All these changes considered, it appears that alternative fuels and electric powered vehicles are the safest and potentially cheapest way to go.
London is leading the way in low emission and safety standards. Many cities across the UK are looking to the capital to improve their own regulations, and after seeing the success, are bringing these measures forward. It is only a matter of time before these standards are rolled out throughout the whole of Europe.

For the time being though, the regulations are being introduced in a measured way with sewer cleaners being one of the exceptions to the rule.

Bucher Municipal – Driven by Better