The percentage of road deaths involving collisions with heavy goods vehicles has averaged 14 per cent. over the past five years—an HGV being a goods vehicle with a gross vehicle weight exceeding 3.5 tonnes.
Of those 40 to 50 lives lost per annum, 15 could be saved if the European Community directive on fitting retro-reflective conspicuity tape to HGVs were immediately implemented. Why, therefore, has my hon. Friend decided to postpone the implementation of that directive until the very last minute, in 2011? The Freight Transport Association said in Commercial Motor last month that the impact on the industry would be “minimal”.
We undertook to look at the impact, which was in the impact assessment that was set out and published, and we found that the actual cost would be between £186 and £388 per vehicle. That would mean a cost to the industry annually of some £16 million to £17 million. We had to assess whether, in the current economic situation, it would be right to impose that cost on the industry, and we decided at this stage not to gold-plate the requirements, which will need to come into force by July 2011. Of course, that does not stop companies fitting the markings themselves. In addition, we will continue to work with HGV drivers through SAFED—the Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving programme —and the Safer Driving and the Driving for Work programmes, for example, on this and other health and safety issues.
A worrying proportion of fatalities, accidents and near-misses involving HGVs on the M1 and A14 in Northamptonshire is down to foreign lorry drivers and foreign lorries. When will the Government take that issue extremely seriously?
For the record, may I make sure that the House is aware of the statistics? In fact, the number of reported accidents involving fatal casualties and side and rear collisions with heavy goods vehicles has fallen. In 2006, there were 183; the number fell to 176 in 2007; and it fell to 148—an almost 16 per cent. reduction—in 2008. Indeed, the number of accidents involving HGVs has fallen further. The steps that we are taking in respect of all HGVs, including foreign-registered vehicles, include an additional £24 million for the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency to undertake further checks on international lorries to ensure that they are roadworthy.