ETSC Fact Sheet No 7: The Safety of Heavy Duty Vehicles

  • Published: European Transport Safety Council, 2005
  • Authors: European Transport Safety Council
  • Date Added: 28 Feb 2013
  • Last Update: 28 Feb 2013
  • Format: pdf


To provide basic facts on the various initiatives and their benefits, which have been developed and implemented within the EU.


 A basic summary of a number of different pieces of research.

Key Findings:

  • Because of their sheer mass, heavy commercial vehicles involved in multiple vehicle RTIs cause very high rates of death and injury to other road users.

  • Speed control of buses and lorries is therefore a vital aspect of road safety.

  • Another cause of severe RTIs by bus and HGV drivers is the abuse of alcohol by them. Particularly in the case of a bus, a very high number of victims are likely to be involved.

  • Some European countries and manufacturers particularly target the implementation of alcohol interlocks (or alcolocks) in the bus and HGV sector in order to substantially reduce the number of alcohol-related RTIs.

  • In the case of buses, all passengers are more exposed to the risk of injury if unbuckled.

  • Seat belts in heavy duty vehicles are hence intended both at drivers and passengers to reduce the probability of injury to them and to make the injuries which occur at least less severe.

  • Research suggests that driver fatigue is a significant factor in approximately 20 per cent of commercial transport RTIs.

  • Peak levels of fatigue-related RTIs at night are often 10 times higher than daytime levels.

  • Every year a large number of vulnerable road users are killed or severely injured when lorries turn right. The main cause of these RTIs is the bad visibility field of the HGV driver on the right side of the vehicle.

  • Lorries with a gross weight over 7.5 tonnes have to be equipped with two mirrors outside on both sides of the vehicle, to recognise bicycle riders or pedestrians.

  • Based on real accident investigations it became apparent that the view out of lorries was still restricted. An additional EU Directive was released to improve vulnerable road users safety by upgrading the performance of rear view mirrors.

  • Due to the size and mass of heavy good vehicles, the problem of compatibility with other road users is a serious matter.

  • EU requirements have been introduced mandating front, rear and side underrun protection for lorries with a gross weight over 3.5 tonnes.

  • The current standards can however be largely improved. Research has shown that energy absorbing front underrun protection systems could save more than 1,000 fatalities per year, improved rear underrun protection systems could save a third of related fatalities per year and improved side underrun protection systems could save 45 per cent of related vulnerable road users fatalities per year.


Large vehicle safety.


Commercial transport – relates to goods vehicles as well as buses and coaches.