Making Northern Ireland’s Roads Safer

In November 2021 Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister
Nichola Mallon launched The Road Safety Strategy for Northern Ireland consultation, outlining the government’s proposed approach to
road safety until 2030 and inviting views. Logistics UK responded to
the consultation– with responses informed by discussions with our members through representative freight councils and sector working groups – which closed in January. In this article I will give an
overview of the key points and Logistics UK’s views on how to
improve road safety across Northern Ireland. 

As part of the proposed changes, a review of the current hand-held mobile phone offence will be carried out by the Department for Infrastructure, aimed at tightening their use based on advancements in modern smart phone technology. The review will echo that carried out by Department for Transport in Great Britain, which recently broadened the offence so that it is no longer limited to just making calls and texting. 

Logistics UK is a safety-first organisation; many of our member companies have established policies in respect of mobile phones which go beyond the minimum legal requirements. Many have a ban on mobile devices in vehicle cabs altogether and employ a “zero tolerance” approach to mobile phone offences, whereby an offence committed in a commercial vehicle, works vehicle or private car can constitute gross misconduct and lead to dismissal. 

It is, however, recognised that effective communications are critical to many modern logistics operations – hand-held communication devices are used in several elements of logistics including ‘Proof of Delivery’, waste and utility operations – and therefore a pragmatic approach with full regard for road safety should be adopted. 

With the safety of all road users vital, Logistics UK welcomes reference to the use of targeted enforcement within the strategy consultation document. Logistics UK has worked consistently with the Driver & Vehicle Agency in Northern Ireland on road safety initiatives for commercial vehicles; it would endorse any system that would target non-compliant operators who undermine our industry and often undercut compliant operators who regularly invest in keeping their commercial vehicles safe and compliant for use on the roads. Targeted enforcement would certainly help to address this imbalance and remove non-compliant operators and vehicles from our roads.

Effective urban planning also plays a key role in improving safety, in addition to helping industry to operate as efficiently as possible while lessening its impact on the environment. Whether new communities are being built or small changes are being made within a local area, the requirements of logistics should be as intrinsic to the planning process as considerations for essential amenities such as gas, electricity and public transport. Logistics must be considered from the outset to ensure efficient delivery and servicing routes can be designed that also allow access to kerbside deliveries. 

Re-Timing Deliveries

Commercially, consideration should also be made to re-timing deliveries, including night-time deliveries. This can help to remove or reduce freight vehicles from travelling during peak hours, which is beneficial for improving safety, and reducing both congestion and vehicle emissions. 

Besides commercial premises, the growth in online shopping means that we should re-examine how we manage deliveries to homes. Conflicting legislative and regulatory frameworks must also be looked at, such as loading parking restrictions, planning restrictions and vehicle access for deliveries and servicing. 

Safety a Priority

Logistics UK strongly supports modal shift, including moving journeys from cars to public transport, and active travel. However, new transport schemes, such as those aimed at enabling more walking and cycling by reallocating road space must consider the needs of road freight, such as the need for kerbside access. With more active travel encouraged, safety must remain a priority. 

In recent years Logistics UK in Northern Ireland has collaborated with cycling charity Sustrans on the development and delivery of a ‘Safe Urban Driving’ training course aimed at HGV drivers. The training course isa Driver CPC accredited seven hour-course delivered in one day. 

The first half of the day is spent in a classroom learning about safe driving practices and guidance in urban areas. The second part of the day then involves the HGV drivers getting on bicycles with Sustrans trainers and being taken around an urban centre for practical learning about the risks and rules for cyclists, which then helps to raise their awareness of cyclists, and cyclist’s movements, when driving. 

This course has been extremely well received by HGV drivers and educates them on the fundamental safety of the vulnerable road users they share road space with. To date, Logistics UK has delivered this training to over 350 HGV drivers in Northern Ireland, primarily in Belfast but also in some other regional towns. 

It would be a welcome development if the Department for Infrastructure was willing and able to promote this type of training in the future to increase the understanding and best practice of sharing the road safely between HGV drivers and cyclists.

The logistics sector is ready and willing to play its part in ensuring our roads are as safe as possible and, along with Logistics UK, eagerly awaits the outcome of the consultation. Logistics UK looks forward to working with members and the NI Executive to implement the necessary changes and looks forward to a safer future for all.