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Why cross border traffic of Mega Trucks should be banned

Mega Trucks
Mega truck German Trials “©Allianz pro Schiene /Kraufmann /Kraufmann

UK MEPs must vote to oppose cross border traffic of mega trucks in a European Parliament vote in March otherwise mega trucks will come to the UK by default. Even though the UK Government currently says it will not allow mega trucks to circulate in the UK, it will come under huge pressure from the road haulage industry on competition grounds to allow these lorries, once mega trucks are allowed to travel internationally, there will be a domino effect.

Current trials of 32 metre 80 tonne lorries between urban areas in Southern Sweden demonstrate what could happen here over time if the EU does not impose strict limits to dimensions of HGVs.   

Mega trucks will lead to more road collisions and more fatalities
Mega trucks present serious road safety dangers because of their mass and dimensions, which cause increased blind spots and manoeuvrability and handling/stability problems, such as snaking. Currently existing sized lorries, which are disproportionately involved in serious accidents with other road users, make up around 3% of the EU vehicle fleet but are involved in 14% of fatal collisions.
Source European Commission Care Database – Heavy Goods Vehicles and Buses 2010 

Arguments for mega trucks flawed
The case for longer lorries relies on the same mistaken presumption used in the past to justify each increase in lorry dimensions, that there would be fewer but bigger trucks on the roads. In practice however, since the previous increases in dimensions there is no evidence of larger or heavier lorries leading to improvements in average payloads or a reduction in empty running. Source Figures 2,3,1C & 6 Analysis of previous increases in HGV sizes and efficiency of existing sized lorries- MTRU. The proponents’ case is predicated on mega trucks, which would be fifty per cent longer and up to a third heavier than existing trucks, delivering a significant reduction in vehicle kilometres. The assumptions for safety and environmental improvement depend entirely on the prediction of a dramatic reduction in vehicles kilometres on the premise that 2 mega trucks would replace 3 HGVs.

However, their calculations ignore the dynamic effects in terms of distorting the intermodal competition which would significantly increase the demand for road freight and undermine sustainable alternatives. They are also derived from very high levels of load utilisation – in excess of that routinely achieved within the haulage sector. So until there is a rational basis for all existing HGVs to be used more efficiently it is questionable how assumptions can be made that mega trucks will have higher utilisation than existing HGVs. Currently one in four lorries are completely empty in the UK and almost 50% of lorries are neither constrained by volume or weight, ie partially loaded. When empty and partially loaded, mega trucks will use more fuel per vehicle kilometre because they are heavier than current HGVs. 

1. Mega trucks have serious dangers due to their size and lack of manoeuvrability
The European Commission's own research in Jan 2009 stated that mega trucks are individually more dangerous than standard HGVs. – TML Effects of adapting the rules on weights and dimensions of HGVs  P14 penultimate line 6 November 2008 DGTREN website.  The double articulation of a mega trucks increases side to side oscillation ie a “snake” (rear amplification) and problems with other manoeuvres at cruising speeds, for example changing lane on a dual carriageway. There is a conflict here between the manoeuvrability needed in urban areas with a dangerous loss of stability at cruising speeds.

Rail freight is safer than road freight. On motorways, more than half (52%) of fatal accidents involve HGVs, despite trucks only making up 10% of the traffic and on minor roads HGVs are five times more likely than cars to be involved in fatal collisions. Source: Traffic statistics table TRA0104, Accident statistics Table RAS 30017, both DfT  published 2013 for 2012 figures

2. Rail freight has a much better environmental record than road
UK rail freight produces 70% less Carbon dioxide emissions than the equivalent road journey.Jan 200/ DfT Logistics Perspective Dec 2008 p 8 section 10

3. In the UK mega trucks would destroy the entire intermodal rail market (ie containers) and 50% of bulk traffic forcing trainloads of freight back onto our congested roads.  EU research admits that mega trucks would have a detrimental effect on rail freight. Source JRC LHVs  freight transport 06/2009 P2

4. Road haulage industry has a poor record in complying with existing road regulations
82% of HGVs exceeded their 50 mph speed limit on dual carriageways and 73% exceeded their 40 mph limit on single carriageways. Source  DfT Free flow vehicle speed statistics 2012.
UK road side weight checks had a 61% overloading rateSource FTA Logistics Report  2013

5. Longer heavier lorries will cause more road congestion as extra time will be needed to clear junctions and railway crossings whereas the heaviest UK train can remove up to 160 HGVs from our roadsSource Value of Freight Network Rail 2010.No mega trucks

6. Trying to restrict mega trucks to dual-carriageways and motorways will not work -The promoters are claiming that these vehicles will be restricted to motorways, dual carriageways and major roads. The reality is that these vehicles will need local road access to distribution hubs not on motorways/dual carriageways. On safety grounds the Dutch trials stated that mega trucks should only be allowed on roads with separate infrastructure for bikes which does not exist in the UK and in most member states.

7. HGVs are up to 160,000 times more damaging to road surfaces than the average car; some of the heaviest road repair costs are therefore almost exclusively attributable to the heaviest vehicles. Taxpayers would have to pay millions for adaptation and maintenance of the road network. The Austrian Government estimates that it would cost over £5bn to adapt infrastructure in Austria.


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