Heavy goods vehicles

Heavy vehicles are those with a total weight above 3,500 kg. (vehicle + load). Heavy goods vehicles are over-involved in fatal crashes, since their high mass leads to severe consequences for other road users in crashes. In view of this and the growth in heavy good vehicle traffic internationally over the last twenty years, the safety of heavy goods vehicles continues to be strictly regulated in the best performing countries in road safety and action by HGV companies encouraged. Mandatory regulation at EU level has been limited to date and though technical standards exist they tend to be optional. However, discussion is underway to bring trucks and buses into the EU Whole Vehicle Type Approval System alongside cars and motorcycles.

Crash avoidance measures

Speed limitation

It has been estimated that automatic speed limitation through the installation of speed governors to heavy goods vehicles could contribute to a reduction in 2% of all injury crashes [35].


In European Union countries in-vehicle speed limitation is required Initially applying a 90 km/h limit to commercial vehicles over 12 tonnes in 1992, the provision was extended in 2002 to all commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes (by 1st January 2005 for all new vehicles and 1st January 2006 for existing vehicles) EC Directive 2002/85.


Vision and conspicuity

Blind spot mirrors

Every year a large number of people, mostly vulnerable road users, are killed or severely injured in road traffic because of trucks turning right. In-depth crash investigation has shown that restricted driver vision to see pedestrians and bicycle riders is a factor in crashes with particularly high risks whilst manoeuvring or reversing. The European Commission estimates that around 500 deaths are caused annually on EU roads.


In 2003, the European Parliament and Council adopted Directive 2003/97/EC on rear view mirrors and supplementary indirect vision systems for motor vehicles. his directive aims to improve road user safety by upgrading the performance of rear view mirrors and accelerating the introduction of new technologies that increase the field of indirect vision for drivers of passenger cars, buses and lorries. The Directive was further amended Directive 2005/27/EC to extend the installation of wide angle mirrors to more vehicle types.


A legal obligation already exists in Belgium and the Netherlands for retrofitting existing trucks with blind spot mirrors or cameras. In its Road Safety Action Programme the European Commission announced that, in connection with the directive on blind spot mirrors for new vehicles, it would also assess the benefits and cost from a directive for the retrofitting of such systems to existing vehicles. This study has been finished. It estimates the benefits to be approximately four times higher than the costs for the retrofitting of lateral blind spot mirrors to existing heavy goods vehicles. See an update of European Union activity in this area.


Retro-reflective markings: In depth crash investigations show that nearly 5% of severe truck accidents can be traced back to the poor conspicuity of the truck or its trailer at night where car drivers failed to see truck or truck combinations turning off the road, turning around or driving ahead of them. Different studies have shown that trucks can be rendered much more conspicuous by marking the sides and rear of commercial vehicles using retro reflective markings [105]. Currently, the European standard ECE-Regulation 104 (January 1998) which refers to the conspicuity of long and heavy vehicles and their trailers is optional.

Braking and handling

Electronic stability devices in loss of control crashes due to speed or steering behaviour and driving through narrow curves or during evasive movements, the truck or trailer can slide or jack-knife. Research has indicated that Electronic Stability devices for trucks could improve the safety during the driving through curves by about 40 % [153]. Some newer full-size trucks offer electronic stability control but no European standard yet exists.


Rollover stability: By continuously monitoring the vehicle’s movement and its relationship to the road surface, the rollover stability system automatically applies brakes and/or reduces engine power when a potential rollover situation is identified. This system has been introduced on various truck models. In depth research shows that since HGV rollovers do not usually result in serious injury, any benefit derived may be more to reduce congestion than road safety. Europe is working on the drawing up of requirements for the rollover stability and a dynamic rollover test for new lorries.

Impairment by alcohol and fatigue

Alcohol interlock systems are automatic control systems which are designed to prevent driving with excess alcohol by requiring the driver to blow into an in-car breathalyser before starting the ignition. Sweden has experimented widely with Alcolocks and commercial vehicles. In a trial running from 1999 to 2002 in Sweden, 300 Alcolocks were installed in commercial passenger and goods transport. Manufacturers such as Volvo and Toyota have also started offering installation of alcohol interlocks in trucks as a dealership option. See From 2007 all trucks of 3.5 tons and over, which are contracted by the Swedish Road Administration (SRA) for more than 100 hours per year will have to be fitted with alcohol interlocks. This requirement is already part of the procurement criteria.


There has been no evaluation of the impact that alcohol interlocks used in commercial transport have on road safety, but experience shows that most companies were successful in stopping drivers who attempted to drive while over the limit. In Sweden rehabilitation programmes using alcohol interlocks are also used in commercial vehicles and the number of alcohol interlocks installed in such vehicles is higher than the number of interlocks installed in drink driving offenders’ cars. The technology used is a simplified version of the Alcolocks used in car offender programmes in order to allow companies to have more than one driver able to use the interlocks [41].


Digital tachographs Driving fatigue has been identified as a special problem for commercial transport, given the long distances which need to be covered and irregular shift patterns which affect sleep. Research indicates that fatigue is most prevalent in long distance lorry driving [112] and a factor in 20-30% of commercial road transport crashes in Europe and the United States [42] [27]. The Commission has moved to strengthen driving and working time rules and enforcement in recent years.


Council Regulation (EC) 2135/98, which amends Regulation (EEC) 3821/85, introduces a new generation of fully digital tachographs. The digital tachograph is a more secure and accurate recording and storage device than the present equipment. The new device will record all the vehicle’s activities, for example distance, speed and driving times and rest periods of the driver. The system will include a printer, for use in road side inspections and the driver will be given a card incorporating a microchip, which he must insert into the tachograph when he takes control of the vehicle. This personal driver card will ensure that inspections remain simple. The technical specifications for the digital tachograph have been laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) 1360/2002, to be mandatorily fitted in new vehicles from August 2004 See European Commission overview.

Crash protection measures

Seat belts and seats

The restraint rate of truck drivers and also of passengers of trucks is very low in Europe. For example in 2001 in Germany seat belt use ranged between 5% and 10%. The installation and use of seat belts in heavy goods vehicles has recently been covered by European legislation. EEC Directive 2003/20/EC amending 91/671/EEC, mandates the use of safety belts where fitted by 2006 in all forward facing front and exposed rear seats in new HGVs. No mandatory EU-wide installation requirement exists for seat belts in heavy goods vehicles. Research indicates that to improve restraint use, 3-point belts should be integrated directly into the seat of the driver and passenger.


Driver cabin structure

Ongoing crash investigation indicates that the stiffness of the driver cabin, especially for truck/truck collisions or single-truck collisions is not sufficient. Currently in Europe two (optional) regulations exist relating to the stiffness of driver cabins (ECE-Regulation 29, VVFS or “Sweden-Test”). Enhanced cabin structure together with restraint use would improve the survivability for HGV occupants in severe HGV crashes [105].


Front underrun protection

Due to the size and mass of heavy vehicles, the problem of compatibility with other road users is a serious issue. Trucks are stiff, heavy and high and pose a serious threat to occupants of other vehicles in the event of an impact. Frontal car-to-truck collisions are the most common impact type in crashes where trucks are involved.


It has been estimated that energy-absorbing front, rear and side under-run protection could reduce deaths in car to lorry impacts by about 12% [100]. An EU requirement was introduced in 2000 based on ECE Regulation 93 requiring mandatory rigid front underrun protection defining a rigid front underrun protection system for trucks with a gross weight over 3.5 tonnes Directive 2000/40/EEC. Studies performed by EEVC WG 14 have shown that passenger cars can ‘survive’ a frontal truck collision with a relative speed of 75 km/h if the truck is equipped with an energy absorbing underrun protection system. Furthermore, these systems could reduce about 1,176 deaths and 23,660 seriously injured car occupants in Europe per year. Research shows that the benefits of a mandatory specification for energy absorbing front underrun protection would exceed the costs, even if the safety effect of these measures was as low as 5% [37]. Energy absorbing systems are available from all truck manufacturers as an optional device but almost none are sold. A test procedure for legislative action is under development VC Compat.


Rear underrun protection

Council Directive 70/221/EEC mandates a rear underrun protection system for trucks and trailers with a gross weight of more than 3.5 tonnes. The regulation describes for example a ground clearance of 550 mm and test forces of maximum 25 kph, respectively 100 kN, depending on the test point.


Research, however, indicates that the ground clearance of rear underrun protection systems is in sufficient and that the systems are insufficiently strong. Research indicates that the ground clearance needs to be reduced to 400mm and the test forces need to be increased. The first conservative estimates of EEVC WG14 on underrun protection devices have indicated that improved rear underrun protection systems with a lower ground clearance as well as higher test forces would reduce fatally and severely injured car occupants by a third in rear underrun impacts in Europe. In addition, Working Group 14 has found that the costs for fatalities and severe injuries could be reduced by 69 -78 Million Euro.


Side underrun protection

Council Directive 89/297/EEC mandates side underrun protection on heavy goods vehicles to prevent pedestrians, bicycle riders and motorcyclists from falling under the wheels of the heavy good vehicle when it turns.


In the Netherlands research indicates that the existing legislative requirement is limited and that an improved side underrun protection system could reduce pedestrian and cyclist deaths in such situations by about 10% [97] [104]. In addition, protection needs to be provided in side collisions with cars and motorcycles.


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