Autonomous HGV Vehicles

European HGV driver shortages

Haulage companies across Europe have for many years been plagued by the shortage of HGV drivers. Yet with safety and efficiency ever more important, autonomous HGVs and driving aids are helping to fill the gap.

The ‘European Road Freight Transport 2018’ report indicates a driver shortage totalling 127,500 across just six European countries (UK, Germany, France, Denmark Sweden and Norway).

Topping the list are the UK with a 52,000-driver shortage and Germany with a shortage of 45,000. Various factors include an ageing workforce, retirement significantly exceeding the rate of recruitment, businesses attracting potential drivers to new manufacturing facilities in former Eastern European countries and a growth in demand for road transport are fuelling that shortage.

Autonomous self driving HGVs

The International Road Transport Union (IRU) believes technological solutions such as autonomous self-driving vehicles may help to significantly alleviate the shortage of drivers.  In May 2019, an electric self-driving truck developed by Einride began deliveries on a public road in Sweden having already deployed their ‘T-pod’ truck at a D B Schenker facility in Jonkoping, Sweden in 2018. They are planning to have two hundred T-pods operating between Gothenburg and Helsingborg.

Various indicators are pointing towards potentially significant growth over coming years in the use of electric self-driving trucks, particularly for regular shorter routes.  As the deployment of such vehicles increases, it will be interesting to watch the development of insurance solutions not just for alternative-fuel trucks but also for increasingly autonomous vehicles.

Investing in the semi-autonomous HGV

Even the best managed fleets are not immune to a vehicle-related catastrophe caused by driver error.  An analysis of the ‘Contributory factors for reported road accidents’ report (RAS50) produced by the Department for Transport and published in September 2015 points to human error (such as failing to look properly) being a factor in 94% of road collisions. It’s for this reason that legislation relating to truck design and autonomous safety features is increasingly finding its way onto the statute book.

Whilst many operators have been prepared to specify and invest in optional technology-based safety solutions provided by manufacturers, legislators have decided that the full extent of such technological safety advances can only be realised if there is widespread adoption. New legislation is driving through changes to HGV design with the intention of making them inherently safer:

  • Electronic stability control, lane departure warning systems and advanced emergency braking systems (also known as autonomous emergency breaking) are now mandatory standard fitment for all new HGVs
  • It’s now a requirement that new trucks are fitted with a new design of mirror that reduces blind spots on the passenger side of HGVs, thereby improving safety for cyclists.
  • EU Directive 2015/719 enables vehicles to be built with a new and slightly longer cab profile.  This will contribute to improving road safety by reducing blind spots in the driver's vision, including those under the windscreen.

Autonomous HGVs for London

Of particular relevance for London and the South East operators is Transport for London's ‘Direct Vision Standard’ in spring 2017.

These new safety features may lead to more operators investing in new trucks in order to enjoy the operational efficiencies that can be leveraged through gaining greater control over the safety and well-being of their drivers and other road users.

Read more information about safer trucks.

Safety permits for HGVs in London

Further to this, TfL have been working on a new Direct Vision Standard (DVS) to bring an end to pedestrians and cyclists being killed or injured as a result of accidents involving HGVs. This is an important component of the Mayor of London’s Vision Zero project, which aims to eliminate deaths and injuries caused by road vehicles by 2041.

The DVS is all about the view a truck driver has from the windows of an HGV cab.  Under the new DVS, the extent of view is measured objectively and produces a star rating for trucks.

Linked to the DVS is a safety permit which now required for all lorries over 12t gross vehicle weight travelling in Greater London.

Key features of the Safety Permit scheme include:

  • Star ratings awarded to every vehicle ranging from zero (poor) to five (excellent)
  • From 26 October 2020, the minimum DVS rating will be one star
  • In 2024, the minimum DVS rating increases to three stars

Vehicles not meeting the required star rating will need to meet new ‘Safe System’ requirements in order to obtain the mandatory safety permit. Safe system requirements compensate for the fact that a vehicle doesn’t meet the required level of star rating by specifying various after-market vehicle safety devices that an operator needs to retro-fit to qualify a vehicle for a Safety Permit.

The new ‘safe system’ requirements include:

  1. Blind spot elimination through a connected camera system
  2. Audible left-turn vehicle manoeuvring warning
  3. Proximity warning sensors installed on the near side of the vehicle
  4. External pictorial aids to warn vulnerable road users of the hazards of the nearside of the vehicle
  5. Class V mirror shall be fitted to the nearside of the vehicle
  6. Class VI mirror shall be fitted to the front of the vehicle
  7. Sideguards fitted to both sides of a vehicle where possible

Fleet risk management systems from Towergate

Vehicle camera and video telematics company VisionTrack is one of the firms able to offer solutions intended to satisfy the first three requirements above. 

See our in-house fleet risk management webpage and get a quote or visit our Safedrive brand's website for more information. Alternatively you can call Sadie Lane at 01952 298 621.

HGV insurance from Towergate

No matter how many precautions you take, it is is still vital to have the right cover for your HGV. We can offer tailored truck insurance with a series of options for drivers of single trucks or hauliers with fleets of up to five HGVs. Our cover ensures you have the right cover in place within a single policy, with no truck too big or too small. We can cover any HGV ranging in size from 3.5t vehicles right through to trucks used to move abnormal loads.

Call for a quote on 0344 346 1418 or request a quote online. Alternatively, read more about our HGV insurance and what we cover.

For larger vehicle fleets, we also offer fleet insurance.

All cover is subject to normal underwriting terms and conditions.

About the author

Chris North FCII, commercial vehicles insurance articles author Chris North FCII is a respected industry leader with over 40 years' experience, who has worked in the insurance industry in a variety of roles, accumulating a wealth of knowledge. He is currently Technical Manager for Towergate's motor division, providing expertise on all matters relating to motor fleet insurance, in particular haulage and self-drive hire fleets.