Freight on Rail believes that these vehicles, which would be fifty per cent longer and a third heavier than existing HGVs, would have terrible economic, environmental and safety implications and are not the right freight transport solution for a number of key reasons which are fully explained below.
- Previous increases in lorry dimensions have resulted in more lorries driving around less full, causing more road congestion and more pollution, which is the reverse of what was claimed would happen. The proponents of LHVs are using the same flawed arguments again.
- LHVs would destroy the majority of rail freight which has a much better environmental and safety record than road and force trainloads of freight back onto our congested roads. LHVs would undermine container and bulk rail freight; Freightliner found that up to 66% of container traffic could be forced back onto the roads. Detailed examination of rail’s bulk freight flows by EWS in May 2007 found that up to 40% of aggregates currently carried by rail could switch to road and almost 20% of metals traffic.
- LHVs have dangers of their own due to their size and lack of manoeuvrability
The European Commission’s own research in Jan 2009 stated that LHVs are individually more dangerous than standard HGVs. On motorways, HGVs are over three times as likely as cars to be involved in fatalities from road accidents per billion kms travelled. DfT Transport Statistics Traffic Speeds Figure 3.5C for 2007 issued July 2008
- Road haulage industry has a poor record in complying with existing road regulations
Over 82% of HGVs exceeded their speed limit of 50 mph on dual carriageways and almost three-quarters exceeded the 40 mph limit on single carriageway non-built up roads in 2007.
VOSA spot checks in October 2008 found that half of UK registered HGVs stopped were breaking the law. International Freighting Weekly 21st October 2008.
- Longer heavier lorries will have minimal impact on road congestion as it would be more difficult for them to negotiate traffic, whereas an average freight train which is designed for heavy and bulky cargoes, can remove 50 HGVs from our roads.Network Rail 2008.
- Trying to restrict LHVs to dual-carriageways and motorways simply will not work
The promoters are claiming that these vehicles will be restricted to motorways, dual carriageways and major roads, but there is no mechanism available to keep them to this and the reality is that these vehicles will need local access to distribution hubs off motorways/dual carriageways.
- Even existing 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.
- The claimed environmental benefits of LHVs rely on very high levels of load utilisation – in excess of that routinely achieved within the haulage sector. Therefore at lower levels of utilisation, the environmental performance of LHVs would be worse. Currently on average over a quarter of lorries are driving around empty.
- Lower road haulage costs will increase lorry miles with LHVs becoming travelling warehouses. LHVs would mean more lorry-miles not fewer because demand will be stimulated as LHVs could reduce road haulage costs by up to 20% according to the freight industry. Distribution centres are likely to be rationalised, saving on real estate costs, with lorry tonne kilometres increasing in line with current trends.
- As it is, road freight only pays between one to two thirds of the costs it imposes on society in terms of road accidents, pollution, damage to infrastructure and loss of productivity.