Construction Logistics and Community Safety

CLOCS (short for Construction Logistics and Community Safety) is a national Standard in the UK that requires all stakeholders in construction to take responsibility for health & safety “beyond the hoardings” – ie. on the streets and communities surrounding the site – anywhere project-related vehicle movements occur. It’s a system that demands collaborative action to prevent fatal or serious collisions between vehicles servicing construction projects and vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.

We highly recommend this webinar by the National Road Safety Partnership Program on Adapting the UK’s Construction Logistics and Community Safety Initiative to Australia. It is 2 hours long, so in case you don’t have time to listen to all of it, we’ve linked to a few of the highlights, with some commentary on how it is relevant to Brisbane.

In his introduction, National Road Safety Partnership Program Director, Jerome Carslake, sets the scene, talking about the large number of major infrastructure projects underway in Australian cities. In Brisbane, we have the massive Queens Wharf Brisbane casino and integrated resort development, and the Cross River Rail project putting huge numbers of construction vehicles on our city streets. And there are more to come: the Dexus development at Eagle St, Brisbane Metro tunnel boring, Brisbane Live in the Roma St precinct, plus dozens of commercial and residential construction projects across the suburbs.

Jerome highlights that heavy vehicles are only 4% of Australia’s heavy vehicle fleet, but are involved in around 50% of crashes that result in fatalities of pedestrians and cyclists. So finding ways to improve the safety of operations involving heavy vehicles seems a good place to target initiatives aimed at protecting vulnerable road users.

Jon Lamonte is Chief Executive of the Sydney Metro project, which involves a huge construction freight task. He outlines how they are applying the world-leading CLOCS framework in the Sydney Metro projects. It is great to hear Jon emphasise that their highest priority is to maintain public safety while minimising the impact to the local community. Importantly, they recognise that the risks don’t stop at the boundaries of Sydney Metro sites; their responsibilities extend into the community.

They apply a “Safe System” approach, which recognises that all road users are capable of making mistakes, so control measures must be put in place to minimise the chance of a crash, and minimise the harm if a crash does occur.

Safe Vehicles are a key plank in the Safe Systems approach (along with Safe Roads, Safe Speeds, and Safe People). All heavy vehicles used on Sydney Metro projects are required to meet minimum standards – including technology to eliminate blind spots, and side underrun protection.

In order to ensure Safe Drivers, Sydney Metro have introduced a bespoke driver training course which is a requirement for all heavy vehicle drivers working on their projects.

Sydney Metro have also planned projects to reduce the number of truck movements – for example, transporting machinery and excavation material by barge rather than by truck. We can only wonder why this was not done more for the Queens Wharf project and why Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project is moving equipment and material primarily by road instead of the rail lines it is right next to.

Jon explains that Sydney Metro aim to not just achieve safety in their own operations, but to lead by example across the construction industry. We’ve argued that this is the position Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Delivery Authority should have taken. We’re concerned that as major projects in other Australian cities apply higher standards for construction logistics, the older and less-safe vehicles will turn up more and more in Brisbane where the safety standards are less stringent.

Peter Binham is Managing Consultant for Transport for London (TfL). He spoke about the imperative for CLOCS. After a spate of pedestrian and cyclist deaths in London, TfL commissioned research to understand why construction vehicles were involved in a disproportionate number of incidents resulting in the deaths of vulnerable road users. One of the key findings was that work related road risk was not considered as important off-site as health and safety was considered onsite.

Based on the findings from that research, TfL issued a call to arms to senior representatives of all the industry players to come together and take responsibility for a program to address the issues, and that lead to the development of the Construction Logistics and Community Safety (CLOCS) standards.

A component of CLOCS is FORS – the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme which is an international quality standard. It includes things like additional safety equipment for all heavy vehicles, and driver training and accreditation for all drivers. (For example it mandates that all drivers must go on a bike every 5 years).

We strongly recommend listening to Peter’s presentation in its entirety – it’s really excellent.

In answer to a question about “long-nose” trucks, Peter suggests they may not be an ideal vehicle for the urban area, but with a safe system model applied (including vehicle safety features and advanced driver training), he accepts they could be made to work. There’s an interesting point to observe about language here: those “long-nose” trucks are referred to in Australia rather benignly as “conventional cab” trucks. In the UK they are called “juggernauts“. Do you think that difference in language might help contribute to the different perceptions of how suitable those types of vehicles are for operating on busy inner-city streets?

In answer to a question about the widespread use of sub-contractors in construction logistics, Peter emphasised that CLOCS and FORS mandate that the standards must be passed down through the supply chain. It’s completely unacceptable for someone to wash their hands of taking responsibility for an incident just because it’s uncomfortable. They put that vehicle on the road ultimately, they’re making profit on it, they need to take responsibility for that vehicle, even if it is a sub-contractor.

This is an issue we have seen in Brisbane. At the Coronial inquest into the tragic death of Rebekka Meyer in 2014, questions were asked of the individual driver, but it seems that not much scrutiny was applied to the practices of the construction project he was servicing. When Carolyn Lister was killed in 2020, we were not able to find any information about what project the vehicle involved was servicing, but we did notice very similar trucks still operating through the area for the remainder of that day, and those following.

The last speaker in the webinar was Dr Marilyn Johnson from Monash University and the Amy Gillett Foundation. Marilyn gave an excellent overview of the Sharing Roads Safely program – vulnerable road user awareness training for drivers of heavy vehicles. As she points out, this issue is bigger than simply trucks and bikes; in Australia we don’t do a good job of teaching road users about safely sharing space – we essentially send people out on the road to figure it out for themselves.

We highly recommend listening to Dr Johnson’s presentation which gives a great insight into the value a program like Sharing Roads Safely can provide. We’re very happy to hear mention that the program is funded to come to Queensland, but we don’t have any information about the scope of any roll-out.

We think it’s high time Brisbane learned from – and made serious moves to adopt – world’s best practice in construction logistics and community safety.

Brisbane City Council has, in their Transport Plan for Brisbane – Implementation Plan, some phrases that hint at a CLOCS-like strategy, but as far as we can see fall far short of a comprehensive system like that enacted in the UK.

So far, we are aware of efforts by Brisbane City Council on point 2 of their Safe Travel Together action plan “engage with bicycle user groups and the broader community to raise awareness of the challenges for heavy vehicle drivers and encourage safe cycling practices when sharing the road“. We understand that they are developing an education campaign telling cyclists to look out for trucks – especially the ones with huge blind spots – and to ‘educate’ truck drivers. Hopefully they will adopt a program with proven results like the Sharing Roads Safely program developed by the Amy Gillett Foundation.

A meeting of the Queensland Cycling Advisory Group (convened by Minister Mark Bailey) in June 2018 heard a presentation on best practice for truck safety – which recognised the CLOCS framework as world-leading. At that time, Professor Narelle Haworth from CARRS-Q observed that Queensland was decades behind other jurisdictions (like the UK, led by London) in our road safety practices in relation to heavy vehicles. Unfortunately we’ve seen very little meaningful action since – we feel it has been brushed off as a national issue. But it’s clear from the presentation by Jon Lamonte from Sydney Metro that states (and large councils) can lead.