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Industry fires opening salvo in battle over mega trucks.

7th November 2012

In advance of Europe reviewing the legislation on sizes of HGVs 1, Kimberley Clark is trying to overturn a Government ban on 82ft HGVs, by commissioning flawed research which disregards the road safety, congestion and pollution impacts 2 of mega trucks on society, according to Freight on Rail.

The report's findings that mega trucks would have no significant impact on road safety lacks credibility given the increased dangers due to their size and lack of manoeuverability. Because of the double articulation needed for manoeuvrability in urban areas there is a serious loss of stability at cruising speeds which increases risk of snaking, for example changing lanes.3

The report does not address the fact that there is a seesaw effect with volume constrained loads wanting length increases, as described in the report, which are then imperfect for weight constrained product suppliers who then lobby for weight increases which leads to leapfrogging of HGV weights and dimensions 4. Furthermore, its omissions of fundamental economic analysis discredit the results.5

The promoters are claiming that these vehicles will be restricted to motorways, dual carriageways and major roads. However, trying to restrict mega trucks to dual-carriageways and motorways will not work; the reality is that these vehicles will need local road access to distribution hubs on local roads. 6

Freight on Rail Manager, Philippa Edmunds said, "This partial report, which aims to get the Government to reverse its objection to mega trucks, dismisses the road casualties, road congestion 7 and pollution from mega trucks. The road haulage industry has an insatiable appetite for bigger lorries; there are already trials of 7ft (2.05metres) longer HGVs on UK roads and yet the industry is already lobbying for an additional 23ft (7 metres), with higher weight limits certainly the next item on their agenda. As almost half current sized lorries are driving around partially full and over a quarter of lorries entirely empty why would even bigger lorries be better utilised."8

She added that "Mega trucks would be disastrous for consumer rail freight, which, grew 11% last year despite the recession 9; road and rail complement each other so we need a balanced integrated approach to allow intermodal operations which customers want." 10


Notes to Editors

1. European Commission is issuing a revised proposal to MEPs and Transport Ministers across the EU by the end of this year on the legislation which governs weighs and dimensions of HGVs Directive 96/53 for decision in 2012.

2. University of Hudderfield report commissioned by Kimberley Clark UK - Impact Assessment: High Capacity Vehicles

1. 82 ft (25.25 metre) lorries would be fifty per cent longer than existing permitted lorries which are 54ft (16.50 metres) long. Currently trials of 7ft (2.05 metres) longer 60ft (18.55 metres) lorries are being permitted in the UK.

3. Conflict between manoeuvrability needed in urban areas and loss of stability at cruising speeds causing rear amplification TRL research for UK Government - Table 27 Assessments of results of handling characteristiscs according to Knight 2008 and Wohrmann 2008

The European Commission's own research in Jan 2009 stated that mega trucks are individually more dangerous than standard HGVs. Source TML Effects of adapting the rules on weights and dimensions of HGVs P14 penultimate line 6 November 2008 DGTREN website

4. Netherlands 25 metre trial started at 50 tonnes which have been increased to 60 tonnes weight. In South Sweden, which already has 25 metre 60 tonne HGVs, trials of 30 metre 80 tonne mega mega trucks travelling between urban areas are taking place.

5. Not measuring the impact of reduced road freight costs stimulating additional demand for road freight (ie rebound effect) renders its figures unreliable. Parameters ie elasticities of demand should be calculated, generally agreed starting point is an elasticity rate of 0.6 - Source Review of Income and price elasticities of demand for traffic, Final Report Graham and Glaister Imperial College July 2002 .

6. The report mentions allowing mega trucks under controlled conditions with restrictions on usage on some parts of the road network as is the case for conventional large HGVs. However this statement is incorrect as by and large, the UK does not have enforceable mechanisms to restrict access for existing HGVs or mega trucks.

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. It under-estimates the impact on rail freight services and the resulting impact on road congestion from forcing trainloads of rail freight back onto the roads. It mentions but does not calculates the extra braking distance and extra time longer vehicles would need to clear junctions and the resulting impact on congestion.

8. Source Table 5: Summary of LST Take Up Input Assumptions for each Scenario, Impact Assessment of Longer Semi-Trailers, DfT 20/12/2010 DfT figures CSRGT Empty running

9. Office of Rail Regulation figures

10. Forecasts show that consumer rail freight can grow fourfold by 2030 - Rail Freight Group.

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