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Mega trucks briefing March 2012

Mega truck German Trials Allianz pro Schiene/Kraufmann

Overall objective to make freight more efficient, lower emissions and accident rates
Freight on Rail recognises that road and rail complement each other but large quantities of long distance freight can be more sustainably and more safely carried by rail than in even larger lorries, 25 metres long and 60 tonnes in weight.

The proponents’ case is predicated on mega trucks, which would be fifty per cent longer and 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 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.  German trials showed that utilisation of above 77% for LHVs was needed for fuel costs to breakeven. Source Umwelt Bundes Amt August  07  Source CSRGT

What History shows us
The case for longer lorries relies on the same questionable 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 direct evidence of larger or heavier lorries leading to improvements in average payloads or a reduction in empty running.

If Europe were to give the go-ahead for cross border traffic these mega trucks would go to member states by default over time. Europeans do not want mega trucks imposed on them, the latest poll in France in July showed 81% of the French were opposed and recent polls showed 73% of Germans, 80% of Swiss  94% of Austrians and 75% of British people oppose mega trucks.”        

1. Mega trucks have dangers of their own 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 amplication) and problems with other manoeuvres at cruising speeds, for example changing lane on a dual carriageway. There is a conflict here between manoeuvrability needed in urban areas with this loss of stability at cruising speeds.

Rail freight is safer than long-distance road freight using major roads, as HGVs are over 3 times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than cars due to a combination of size, lack of proper enforcement of drivers hours, vehicle overloading and differing foreign operating standards. Source: Source: Traffic statistics table 2010 TRA0104, Accident statistics Table RAS 30017, both DfT

2. Rail freight which has a much better environmental and safety record than road
UK rail freight produces 70% less Carbon dioxide emissions than the equivalent road journey.Compared to HGVs’ 3 % share of the EU vehicle fleet and 7% of vehicle-Km driven, HGVs are responsible for almost a quarter of CO2 emissions from road transport and 5-6% of total EU CO2 emissions – CE Delft Are trucks taking their toll? Jan 200/ DfT Logistics Perspective Dec 2008 p 8 section 10

diagram3. In the UK mega trucks would destroy the entire intermodal rail market (ie containers) and 50% of bulk traffic forcing the traffic back onto congested roads  EU research admits that mega trucks would have a detrimental effect on rail freight. Source JRC LHVs  freight transport 06/2009 P2

Impact of mega trucks on combined transport

  • Scenario 1- 25 metres 60 tonnes  Rail would loose 50% of current market which is about 18 million TEU per annum, which would return to the roads across Europe resulting in 9 million extra long distance lorry journeys averaging 800 kms each
  • Scenario 2 - 25 metres 40 tonnes almost as bad  Rail would loose 40% of current market - kombiverkehr

4. Road haulage industry has a poor record in complying with existing road regulations
In the UK over 82% of HGVs exceeded their speed limit of 50 mph on dual carriageways and almost 75% exceeded the 40 mph limit on single carriageway non-built up roads.

5. Longer heavier lorries will have minimal impact on road congestion whereas with the heaviest UK train can remove 160 HGVs from our roadsSource Network Rail 2009.

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. Dutch trials stated that mega trucks should only be allowed on roads with separate infrastructure for bikes which does not exist in UK and 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 up front. The Austrian Government estimates that it would cost over £5bn to adapt infrastructure in Austria.


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