Direct Vision Standard: What DVS Means for HGV Fleets

Written by: Simon Pavey, Last updated:18th March 2024

Lorry driving over bridge towards Big Ben, London

In October 2020, it became compulsory for HGVs to comply with the Direct Vision Standard (DVS) in order to drive in the Greater London area. The DVS rates drivers’ ability to clearly see and be aware of their surroundings.

However, what if one of your vehicles gets a DVS rating of two stars or lower? How do you continue to operate in London without replacing your entire fleet of vehicles with ones that comply with the standard?

What is the Direct Vision Standard?

The DVS is in place to protect other road users by minimising the number blind spots in HGVs and had been a major part of the Mayor of London’s Vision Zero for London plan, which aims to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from London’s transport network. There were 125 deaths on London’s roads in 2019 – a 12% increase from the previous year.

It is a permit that HGV drivers need to obtain before operating in the Greater London area. This permit is granted when the vehicle is proven to comply with the required safety standards.

How does the DVS star rating work?

A HGV with a rating of three to five stars is currently deemed safe enough to drive in Greater London. If your vehicle is rated between one and five, you can apply for a permit on the Transport For London website without the need to submit any further information.

If your vehicle receives a zero, one or two star rating, this means it is not DVS compliant. Steps will have to be taken to ensure that the vehicle is permitted to be driven in Greater London. Otherwise, you will not be granted this compulsory permit.

How do you apply for a DVS permit?

The application process for the permit can be done through the Transport for London website. You’ll need the following information to apply for the permit:

  • Operator and contact details (this could be the business that owns the vehicle).
  • Confirmation of your vehicle’s DVS star rating from the manufacturer.
  • If needed, certification of a zero-star rating.

More information can be found on the TfL website, and the requirements could change depending on your vehicle.

Safe System measures

If your vehicle gets a DVS below the required rating, then action must be taken. The issues that caused your vehicle to be rated so low can be amended by fitting a Safe System.

A Safe System is a series of pieces of hardware that can be fitted to your vehicle after the point of manufacturing. This means that they can be installed to any vehicle, regardless of make and model, and regardless of how it was manufactured. Obviously, this is great news for owners of zero star vehicles. If the Safe System measures weren’t recognised by the Direct Vision Standard, there would be no way for the vehicle to operate in Greater London.

According to the Transport For London website, the following safety equipment must be installed to zero star vehicles:

Class V and VI Mirrors

These mirrors need to be fitted to reduce blind spots. The Class V mirror should be fitted to the nearside, and gives the driver a view of the blind spots on the side of the vehicle.

The Class VI is fitted to the front. With HGVs being so tall, drivers can’t always see what is directly in front of them. This mirror, often referred to as a “Cyclops”, is fitted to the front of the cab. It gives drivers a view of the space ahead of them, that they can’t always see.

These mirrors give a huge increase of awareness and could save the lives of pedestrians and cyclist who are in close proximity to the HGV.

Row of white HGVs in a parking bay

A fully operational camera monitoring system

A camera system that feeds to a monitor inside the cab is another step towards eliminating blind spots. It is possible to get a 360° system. This gives the driver a complete view of the outside of their HGV on one screen. This effectively removes all blind spots, especially when combined with the extra mirrors for extra safety and security.

 A sensor system with driver alerts

Proximity sensors are a great way to improve driver awareness. When attached to the side of the vehicle, they will alert the driver when a pedestrian or cyclist is moving alongside the vehicle. This alert will prompt the driver to check their mirrors and look at the monitor. Whilst, of course, drivers should check their mirrors regularly, this extra prompt from the sensors might save someone’s life.

An audible vehicle manoeuvring warning

When a HGV turns left, it can be risky as the driver sits on the right. Systems can be put in place so that, when the driver indicates left, an audible alert will play to notify others. You’ll have probably heard an example of this. Many of you will have been woken up to the sound of “warning – vehicle reversing” from a bin lorry. It is recommended that the audible warning be a combination of speech and white noise. This means that anyone with hearing issues should still be alerted, even if the speech is unintelligible.

In congested areas, this greatly improves safety around HGVs. Whilst it is important to make sure the driver is alert at all times, assuring that nearby pedestrians, drivers and cyclists are also aware of the vehicle can save lives.

Warning signage

If you’ve ever driven behind a HGV, you’ll be familiar with such signage. “Blind Spot – Take Care” or “If You Can’t See My Mirrors, I Can’t See You!” are amongst the typical warning signs placed on the back of HGVs.

These signs simply remind other road users of the dangers of driving near a HGV. As a result, they drive more carefully, and stay alert to the fact that they should stay out of the driver’s blind spots.

Warning signs fitted to the rear of a HGV

Side-underrun protection

Otherwise known as bicycle catchers, these contraptions are fitted to both sides of the HGV. They are designed to stop cyclists from being dragged beneath the vehicle during an accident. 36% of accidents between HGVs and cyclists result in fatality. This figure could be massively reduced if all HGVs are fitted with side-underrun protection.

DVS update for October 2024

As of October 28th 2024, the requirements for the Direct Vision Standard are changing to require HGVs of 12 tonnes or more to have a DVS rating of three stars or have a Progressive Safe System fitted, in order to drive in the Greater London area.

This means that HGVs with a rating of zero, one or two stars will have their permit expire at midnight on October 27th, and to continue operating in Greater London and avoid penalty should have a Progressive Safe System fitted before this date.

You can find further details of the Progressive Safe System on the TFL website.

Why do we need the Direct Vision Standard?

The DVS is just one part of the Vision Zero for London initiative. This is a series of goals set out by the Mayor of London, which are in turn part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

The Mayor’s Transport Strategy has set ambitious goals. One of them is that, by 2041, nobody using London’s transport network will be killed or seriously injured.

To eliminate these deaths, the roads need to be made safer. Part of the problem is that many HGVs (especially older models) are not designed with optimal vision in mind. With the driver sitting very high up with many blind spots, they often can’t see what is directly in front of beside them. In a congested area such as Greater London, the dangers this problem presents cannot be overstated.

The DVS will reconcile this issue by demanding that changes be made to vehicles with a zero, one or two star rating. These changes will reduces the number of accidents that are caused by lack of driver awareness

Blue lorry driving along road

How else can you improve HGV safety in London and beyond?

Another way to make HGVs safer for all road users is to install telematics in your vehicles. The technology allows you to keep track of your drivers’ habits.

For example, you might notice through telematics that one of your drivers is prone to aggressive breaking, sharp turning and consistent speeding. Obviously, if you notice this, you know that this driver is putting themselves and others in danger.

With this knowledge, you can encourage the driver to amend these habits. The routes they drive will be much safer as a result.

Get in touch with the Tele-Gence team today to learn more about what telematics can do for your fleet. As well as driver monitoring, your Tele-Gence account can sync seamlessly with your fuel card account. Plus, the technology offers a great deal of opportunity for financial saving. Tele-Gence also offer cameras to reduce blind spots, helping you take steps towards DVS compliance.