Matthew Avery spoke at the NCAP24 World Congress in Munich introducing the new truck safety ratings (Photo: Lou Wilmes/EUobserver)

New European truck ratings set to transform truck safety and save lives

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by EuroNCAP, Munich,

When Euro NCAP started crash testing passenger cars and making the information public in 1997, they had two central motivations: “To give consumers an informed choice when it comes to their safety and to put pressure on vehicle manufacturers to improve safety,” the director of strategic development at Euro NCAP Matthew Avery explains, ahead of the NCAP24 World Congress in Munich.

Nigh on 1000 cars have meanwhile been tested and, having become a crucial part of vehicle design, car manufacturers across the board now strive to get five-star ratings.

Looking at the impact this has had on road fatalities, Avery states: “By 2015, around 20 years after introducing the first ratings, which is the time it takes for a complete changeover of the European fleet, we saw a huge reduction of 65 percent to 70 percent in occupant fatalities. In just five years, the introduction of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) systems, for instance, reduced front-to-rear crashes by 30 to 40 percent”.

The end goal remains significantly more ambitious however – Euro NCAP aims to help European countries achieve their ‘Vision Zero’ target and end traffic-related fatalities altogether.

In order to do so it is important to address not just passenger cars but also commercial vehicles. Heavy trucks weighing 7.5 tons and above make up just three percent of the European fleet but are involved in 15 percent of all fatal crashes.

Avery is very clear: “We will not be able to deliver Vision Zero unless we address these 15 percent of crashes. It’s absolutely key that we start to look at the safety of heavy goods vehicles.”

Trucks cover a lot of mileage and therefore have a high exposure on our roads, but there is another major factor playing a role in the high proportion of fatalities for which trucks are responsible. Many advanced safety technologies that have been developed over recent years and are available on passenger cars, have simply not yet been fitted on heavy vehicles.

“Because, at the moment, it is a free-for-all for the truck manufacturers beyond regulation. What we have now is some manufacturers offering some of the technology, but not all of it by any degree,” Avery explains.

Acknowledging these shortcomings, Ulric Långberg of the Swedish Association of Road Transport agrees: “The sooner we recognise that safety technologies on trucks lag behind those on cars, the quicker we will be able to reduce the number of fatal accidents involving trucks.”

Truck Safety Rating

Over the last 18 months, Euro NCAP has been working on a new truck safety rating scheme, which they presented at the NCAP24 World Congress held in Munich on 23 and 24 April.

“Trucks are a very different market to passenger cars, it is a new audience – instead of talking to consumers it very much becomes a b2b conversation,” Avery says. “The new truck safety ratings will be aimed at a multi-stakeholder ecosystem, consisting of hauliers, manufacturers, shippers, insurers and authorities.”

Avery explains the rating procedure will be intended to encourage vehicle manufacturers to fit innovative safety technologies, while also making sure that the technology is accepted by the drivers and hauliers. “These are often optional systems, unlike passenger cars, trucks are custom-made in order to fulfil a very specific role. It’s very important that the manufacturers are making the systems and technology available, and that the customers are actually buying it.”

A Volvo representative at the NCAP24 Congress also explained the importance of having truck drivers on the same page with regard to innovative technologies. While blind spot monitoring systems work very well and are fitted on Volvo’s state-of-the-art models, they only go as far as warning the driver when a potential vulnerable road user is detected in their blind spot. The technology could be combined with an AEB system, which is already present on the front of the truck, but due to drivers’ reluctance towards also having AEB on the sides of their trucks, Volvo is currently refraining from fitting this technology.

Euro NCAP will be focusing on the economic argument of safe vehicles and safe driving in order to have the most effective impact. “The freight business is very cost sensitive,” Avery emphasises, pointing out that “when you add 1000€ for technology on a truck, there has to be a payback".

"Euro NCAP’s process is actually providing that payback, because we are saying: we’ll make this information available, insurers can react to it, city authorities can react to it, and shippers can react to it,” he adds.

A tool for regulations

In 2022, the European Commission added new requirements for truck safety as part of GSR2 (General Safety Regulation 2), which forces vehicle manufacturers to put some of the basic safety technologies on board of the vehicle.

“GSR2 is something Euro NCAP can build upon, meaning we are not just giving star ratings for vehicle manufacturers fitting standard equipment, this is about encouraging manufacturers to go above and beyond,” Avery says.

In 2021, London introduced its Direct Vision Standard, which forces truck manufacturers to provide vehicles that have a certain level of vision for their drivers. You can’t access London’s roads with a heavy truck unless it has either good direct vision or it has safety equipment to address that.

“London has invested a huge amount of money in designing their own new system,” Avery points out, adding that “a wealthy authority like London can do that, but for other cities around Europe, this could be a lot harder to afford. So Euro NCAP provides a framework for them: we will give you the rating on these trucks, and you can apply them for your own measures and regulations. A city could quite easily only allow 4-star trucks and above in their city, for instance, as long as they have some way of monitoring the vehicles that come into their city.”

Aside from city and highway authorities, shippers and other businesses using trucks for the transportation of their goods can use the ratings to implement their own safety requirements. IKEA for example, does not own any trucks but has thousands on the road each day delivering their products.

Speaking at NCAP24 Elisabeth Munck af Rosenschöld, global sustainability manager at IKEA, emphasised how IKEA prioritises the safety of the trucks they use.

“The key thing that these regulators, shippers and businesses are missing in order to encourage best practice in terms of safety, is the information. And the information is what Euro NCAP will be able to provide,” Avery concludes.

 Long term impact

With the regulations in place today, Johns Hopkins University estimated that over 160,000 lives worldwide will be saved between 2015 and 2030. Speaking at the NCAP24 Congress, one of the researchers, professor Abdul Bachani, stated: “If we fill the gaps in safety measure uptake, implementing new measures based on technologies that already exist, an additional 40,000 lives will be saved between 2024 and 2030, taking us up to more than 200,000 lives saved by 2030.”

“We know that life-saving safety measures and technologies are available, they have been around, and they are not expensive to implement, but our implementation is lagging. So we need to focus on making sure that these technologies are taken up by countries, starting with G20 countries which will have a cascading effect on lower income countries as they mostly rely on vehicles exported from these countries,” Bachani said.

In terms of the truck safety ratings, Euro NCAP expects to see positive effects rather quickly, “generally you have to wait for a generation turnover,” Avery explains. “However, we are in a period of change where truck manufacturers are looking at updating them. So we think relatively quickly manufacturers, over the next 6 to 10 years, could update their vehicles to get good 5-star ratings for their trucks.”

Heavy goods vehicles have a very high exposure on European roads, they drive half a million kilometres in a year on average, “so you could expect to see a marked improvement in fatality reduction after 10 years already,” Avery predicts.

Active safety testing, testing vehicles for their ability to avoid collisions, will start in September of this year with the first star ratings being published in November. Passive safety testing, actual crash testing, will start in 2030. “We’re focusing on active safety for now, and we’re giving the manufacturers lead time to develop passive safety, putting them on notice that they will have to improve pedestrian protection and underwrite physical protection,” Avery concludes.


This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

Author Bio

The European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP) provides consumer information on the safety of new vehicles. This article was produced in collaboration with EUobserver.

Matthew Avery spoke at the NCAP24 World Congress in Munich introducing the new truck safety ratings (Photo: Lou Wilmes/EUobserver)


Author Bio

The European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP) provides consumer information on the safety of new vehicles. This article was produced in collaboration with EUobserver.