London Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision to scrap the Met Police’s lorry safety unit has come in for fierce criticism from a number of quarters, including the London Cycle Campaign and the Green Party.
The Commercial Vehicle Education Unit (CVEU) has completed over 3,000 roadside checks of freight vehicles since 2005, finding fault in more than 70 per cent of vehicles checked. The CVEU has also checked the procedures of over 400 companies. In visits to firms the unit has gone on to agree action plans and issue notices of improvement under the Health and Safety Act.
The unit reportedly costs under £1 million per year to operate, funded by the Metropolitan Police Service and Transport for London.
The LCC has said the decision to cull the unit is difficult to believe in a year when eight out of ten cyclist fatalities have involved collisions with lorries.
LCC cycling development officer Charlie Lloyd said: "It's difficult to believe that our cycling mayor is disbanding the only police unit in the country that has the power to properly investigate unsafe lorry operators, and bring them up to standards set by Health and Safety law.”
Boris Johnson responded to the criticism by insisting the Freight Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) – a voluntary scheme for haulage companies – will provide adequate protection for cyclist.
"The three sergeants and nine constables [of the CVEU] are being directed to other jobs as part of savings in the police budget.
"That's only happening because we're confident that the freight operators, through the FORS, will implement safety measures."
But the Green Party also criticised the move. "Not enough is being done to stop cyclists and others from going under the wheels of HGVs in London,” said the Party’s London Assembly Member Jenny Jones.
“What little has been done has mostly been carried out by the police officers in this unit. The mayor is badly informed if he thinks that the small back-street haulage firms and businesses will sign up to his voluntary scheme."