Have you heard of a blindspot lorry? No, of course you haven’t, in the same way that two decades ago you wouldn’t have heard of a gas guzzler or known what a credit crunch was. Until a few days ago, a lorry was just a lorry.
But you will have heard of them soon, because of an impending ban on them in London. Lorries that come into the capital are about to get rated on how good visibility is from the driver’s cab. Those rated zero stars – and Transport for London thinks there are 35,000 of them on the capital’s roads – will be banned from entering London by 2020. Those with fewer than three stars will be outlawed in the capital by 2024.
Why? Because heavy commercial vehicles account for only 5% of road traffic yet more than half of cyclist fatalities, and the problem is bigger in London than anywhere else. The gravest danger comes from construction lorries, made for building sites, of which there are many in London because they haven’t finished building it. These trucks ride high, with tall cabs and limited downward visibility, because they weren’t designed to be used near the vulnerable road users with which they now routinely find themselves sharing sparse road space. New rules from the office of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, that might necessitate bigger windows, seethrough doors or more cameras and mirrors will hopefully set London on a path to fewer road deaths. They will also change the shape of lorries travelling into the capital. And in turn, they will change the shape of lorries across the nation and beyond.
As a result, truck makers will have to be able to react quickly to local (if you can call a city with more than 10 million people in it during the day ‘local’) regulations. Because it’s London – and why would you want to miss out on a market the size of that? – they will respond.
It’s something car manufacturers will increasingly have to respond to, too, as city authorities look to improve air quality and safety and endeavour to move faster at a local level than national or international governments manage. Paris is banning cars over 20 years old, and Oxford runs the only English low-emissions zone outside London, not that it’s helping much.
If you’re a car maker looking to build and sell cars on a global scale, then, local and regional differences in legislation are another level of complexity to respond to, and respond to fast if you want to do well. Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV sells particularly well in the UK because our incentives make it uniquely attractive. McLaren’s 540C and the new rear-drive Ferrari GTC4 Lusso with a 3.9-litre V8 are aimed at getting the best from the Chinese market.
It strikes me that manufacturers whose model ranges are the most varied and have the most options in their locker – those who are ready to go with full electric, hybrid electric, petrol and diesel and are even getting hydrogen cars into production – will do well. The car makers who prosper will, like Darwin said, be the ones who are the most adaptable to the situations they find themselves in as, like in London, local authorities take quick action that’ll benefit all of us.