There’s a chilling Youtube video which shows the size of the blind spot around an average HGV. Shot initially from inside the cab, it appears that there are no vehicles to the left side of the lorry. The camera then disembarks and spins to the outside to reveal no less than 12 cyclists riding parallel to the huge vehicle, no more than a foot or two from its flank. Should the driver suddenly shift to the left, or even worse, attempt to turn completely, all of them could be wiped out.
The video has gained almost 1 million views, and it’s a fair bet that most of them will gasp at the final revelation. In every day driving it would take horrific luck and timing for all of those riders to remain hidden, but in rush hours, poor weather and a situation of tight driving deadlines a driver may find his view obscured, or even worse not even check the mirror sufficiently. Lorries are responsible for 4,200 accidents across Europe every year.
In regards to actual safe driving technique little has changed in many years, but the danger of blind spots is being recognised by a wave of new technology. Monitoring systems bring wide angled- and even 360-degree views onto a monitor in the driver’s compartment, courtesy of companies such as Brigade Electronics.
Transport for London has funded tests into blind-spot technology in London’s roads across the summer with a hope of cutting down on the number of accidents involving HGV vehicles.
Academics at Loughborough university are researching whether a differently shaped, more aerodynamic cab with a rounded nose and reduced cab height could also aid drivers, although there are a number of legal issues that designers would face, according to Fleetpoint.
On an average sized car the area of the ‘blind spot’ is around the size of a large swimming pool. A new Ford Fiesta hatchback has a length of 160” – four and a half times shorter than a 60ft articulated lorry on a UK road. So if we assume that a lorry driver is dealing with a blind spot of at least four swimming pools we begin to understand the huge scope of the perils. The shape of the blind spot is roughly a skewed rectangle, which can start directly under the drivers mirror and expand back 20-30ft or further depending on the angle of the driver’s view.
With that knowledge in mind, what can be done to alleviate the dangers? Some steps are fairly obvious: don’t block your windows or mirrors with anything that can distract. Make sure they are clean from mud and defrosted in cold weather.
Mirrors should be adjusted to the correct angle before leaving – it doesn’t harm to place obstacles around the lorry so you can angle the mirrors to take in the maximum area of objects. Memorise and recognise the potential hotspots and bear these in mind before making manoeuvres.
All lane adjustments should start with a look into the mirror to find a safe spot, followed by a signal, followed by another look. Give drivers around you time to adjust their driving if needs be. If you’re moving to the right take a brief look over your shoulder before adjusting.
There is one last note – drivers in other vehicles should also take responsibility.
As a motorist in a passing van or car there’s a simple rule of thumb – if they can’t see the truck driver, the truck driver may not be able to see them. Motorists in cars and vans should recognise the limitations of a large vehicle, and adjust their behaviour accordingly – it would certainly aid the truck driver.
Author: Debbie Fletcher