Understand Where Commercial Fleets Sit Within Rule H1

The new Highway Code is due out in spring 2022. Major changes will be introduced in the updated edition, most importantly for those in the HGV and coach sectors is Rule H1 – a ‘hierarchy of responsibility’. This means that the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, etc. will be put before HGV and coach sectors. The HGV and coach sectors will bear more responsibility to be aware of the needs of other road users than any other ‘subgroup’ on the road.1 

This hierarchy will affect any fleet drivers operating in England, Scotland or Wales, and its existence, and the accompanying new rules will require effective communication to all commercial drivers. The hierarchy’s rationale is that of protecting the most vulnerable road users – pedestrians – who sit at the top of the hierarchy, followed by cyclists. 

New rules will support the interests of these two most vulnerable groups. All drivers will have to cede priority to pedestrians attempting to cross the road. Vehicles wishing to turn left at a junction will also have to give priority Understand Where Commercial Fleets Sit Within Rule H1 to cyclists travelling straight ahead. 

These 2022 Highway Code additions will add to others already in force and which can be viewed in the current online version. These explain how to respect the Red X in a closed lane of a smart motorway, how variable speed limits work and what to do if you break down in all-lanes-running situations.2 It is crucial all drivers know these rules. 

The move to protect pedestrians and cyclists has also been evidenced in London this year, with the arrival of the March 2021 Direct Vision Standard.3 This currently requires 12-tonne lorries to meet at least a one-star minimum standard, relating to the commercial vehicle driver’s ‘visibility’ of pedestrians and cyclists, if they wish to drive in London. This will increase to a threestar qualifying standard by 2024. 

It aims to enable the commercial driver to see the vulnerable road users through vehicle safety features. These include Class V and VI mirrors, blind-spot cameras, side under-run protection, close proximity sensors and an audible alert when turning left. 

It is part of the Mayor of London’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate all deaths on the city’s transport network by 2041. Failure to comply will result in a fine of £550, reduced to £275 if paid within 14 days, and 7,000 such fines were handed out in the first three months.4 

This is a measure tackling a situation in which HGVs, despite contributing only 3% of the total miles clocked up by London’s road users between 2018-2020, were involved in 41% of fatal collisions with cyclists and in 19% of those with pedestrians. 

All of these changes impact on those driving for a living and must be embraced, if fines and other potential penalties are to be avoided. Commercial drivers and fleet managers need to understand their risks and mitigate their impacts on other road users, through robust driver training and education, and the use of safety systems and measures that keep others safe.

The H1 hierarchy’s impending arrival suggests tolerance of commercial fleet negligence will be extremely low, particularly if HGVs and coaches are involved in accidents with pedestrians and cyclists. The time to act is now, to mitigate risks and learn how to better plan routes to avoid fines and other issues. 

If you need a broker to help you do this, please get in touch. Working together, we can make the world of commercial driving still work for you.

1 https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2021/07/29/new-highway-code-to-rule-that-motorists-should-cede-priority-to-pedestrians-andcyclists/?sh=59a341aa7ae9  

2 https://highwaysengland.co.uk/our-work/smart-motorways-evidence-stocktake/new-highway-code-rules-will-make-our-roads-even-safer/  

3 https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/deliveries-in-london/delivering-safely/direct-vision-in-heavy-goods-vehicles#on-this-page-0  

4 https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/media/press-releases/2021/june/three-months-of-tfl-s-world-first-direct-vision-standard-shows-lorries-in-londonare-safer