The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is warning fleets and HGV drivers that major changes to the Highway Code that will impact them from this week.
The RHA says that all lorry, coach, van and car drivers will have to comply with new rules – which are expected to come into force from Saturday 29 January.
There are three major changes that HGV drivers need to be aware of.
The first change creates a new ‘hierarchy of responsibility’.
Driver of the largest vehicle will be presumed responsible
This hierarchy will mean that the driver of the largest vehicle will be presumed responsible for any collision with smaller vehicles, or a vulnerable road user.
Drivers of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision will bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger to others.
This principle applies most strongly to drivers of HGVs, LGVs cars and taxis.
Under the second change, cyclists will have right of way when overtaking or undertaking any turning vehicle.
Cyclists will have right of way
The Highway Code makes clear that cyclists will have right of way to pass down the inside of a left-turning vehicle or pass on the outside of right-turning vehicle.
This rule change does not apply to motorcyclists.
The third change gives pedestrians the right of way when crossing at a junction over vehicles that are making a turn.
The change here is that drivers are required to give way to pedestrians when the pedestrians are still on the pavement.
Give way when pedestrians are in the act of crossing
Currently, drivers who are turning into a road are required to give way when pedestrians are in the act of crossing.
The RHA says: “It is vital that companies alert drivers to these changes. They are expected to come in on Saturday 29 January.
“The Government is not intending to do a major publicity campaign on the changes until later in the year.”
‘Highway Code applies to all road users’
Peter Lorence, associate solicitor at the law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: “The Highway Code applies to all road users including pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists, as well as motorcyclists and drivers.
“Many of the rules in the Code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules, you are committing a criminal offence. You may be fined, given penalty points on your licence or be disqualified from driving.”
He added: “In the most serious cases you may be sent to prison.
“Although failure to comply with the other rules of the code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted. The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under the Traffic Acts to establish liability. This includes rules which use advisory wording.”
For more information about the new Highway Code rules, the Road Haulage Association has published a briefing document that outlines the changes.
And this document from the Department for Transport offers more detail about the Code’s changes.