Truck drivers and cyclists: essential safety advice

At time of writing we are in ‘Road Safety Week 2020’, the UK’s biggest road safety event, which is coordinated annually by Brake, the road safety charity. Designed to stimulate community involvement, the event has great scope to reach many people across the nation and remind them of road safety, thus potentially preventing many accidents. Fuel distribution is an industry well renowned for its unwavering focus on and commitment to safety but, with one of the impacts of lockdown being the reduction of motorised vehicles on the nation’s roads and the subsequent increase in the number of bikes, we hear from Brake as they revisit the challenges this presents to truck drivers.

Every professional truck driver knows that encountering cyclists on busy roads can be a major source of stress, demanding extreme levels of concentration and patience, especially in the face of sometimes careless or dangerous behaviour from riders. Thankfully, due to the focus and skill of drivers, the vast majority of truck/bike encounters pass without incident. But there are now urgent reasons why drivers need to redouble their efforts.

  1. There are even more bikes on the road

According to the UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, there’s been a huge increase in cycling across the country due to COVID-19, as many people are discouraged from using public transport. Estimates suggest an increase of up to 100% on cycling journeys being made during the week, and a massive 200% at weekends.

  1. There will likely be more fatalities in 2020

There’s no new data yet to suggest any change in the number of commercial vehicle journeys and it’s still too early to assess any possible impact on the numbers of accidents and fatalities. But with fatal cycling accidents before COVID-19 averaging around 100 per year, it’s possible that we can expect more fatalities when 2020 numbers are counted due to the increasing number of cycle journeys.

  1. Most serious accidents involve trucks turning left

Sadly, HGVs are involved in as many as 20% of fatal accidents involving cyclists. And perhaps, not surprisingly, it’s left turns that lie at the root of many of the worst incidents.

  1. There’s a minority of reckless riders

Both professional commercial drivers and regular cyclists know that trucks and bikes don’t mix well. The vast majority of both parties drive and ride defensively and with high levels of awareness. Unfortunately, there’s a small minority who aren’t so responsible on the roads and they sometimes put themselves and others in great danger – as well as giving both drivers and riders an undeserved reputation.

  1. Better visibility means fewer incidents

Professional drivers are well drilled and regularly tested in the potential dangers and correct procedures where cyclists are concerned. Improvements in mirror systems and the introduction of cameras have greatly enhanced the driver’s visibility and eliminated most blind spots. Drivers are trained to look several times and to pull back before turning left if a cyclist is in the picture on the inside, perhaps losing a few seconds in order to potentially save a life.

  1. Road safety is still not mandatory for cyclists

Although there is surely a strong case for it, road safety training for cyclists is currently not compulsory, although courses are readily available nationwide. Proper training for cyclists, especially those new to riding, could help both cyclists and professional drivers to stay safer on the roads. In the meantime, it means drivers often bear the weight of responsibility.

  1. Check your mirrors – and keep checking

Awareness, thinking ahead and common sense together make up the simple but powerful formula for safe engagement between trucks and cyclists. The driver should check multiple times in mirrors and screens before indicating an intended left turn as early as possible. A cyclist should keep looking ahead, be especially aware of large trucks and other vehicles, and keep a sharp watch on their indicator lights. Under no circumstances should a cyclist try to ‘undertake’ a truck that’s indicating left, even if it’s stationary in traffic, waiting to turn.

  1. Always follow the rules – especially because some riders don’t

Unfortunately, drivers know only too well that some reckless riders do exactly that and worse. That’s why the rules of engagement for commercial vehicle drivers are so essential. You simply can’t assume cyclists will follow the rules, so it’s doubly important that you do so as a driver. It’s worth regularly refreshing your knowledge of the Highway Code just in case.