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European Parliament Candidates asked to oppose Mega Trucks

18th May 2009

Freight on Rail is asking MEP candidates in the European Elections to oppose the introduction of mega trucks1 across Europe as these massive vehicles will come to the UK by default, if they are allowed across Europe.

Freight on Rail has uncovered fundamental mathematical errors in the European Commission sponsored mega trucks research, acknowledged by their consultants, which totally undermines the case for mega trucks. The proponents' case is predicated on mega trucks delivering a significant reduction in vehicle kilometres, proved by Freight on Rail to be incorrectly calculated.

Philippa Edmunds said "In advance of the European elections on June 4th, please take the opportunity to ask your local MEP candidates, from all the parties, to oppose mega trucks, which would be fifty per cent longer and a third heavier than existing sized HGVs, and expose this biased and inaccurate European Commission sponsored research, which seriously exaggerates the case for mega trucks."

She continued "This acknowledgement, by the EC's consultants, of this basic error destroys the case for mega trucks as the justification for mega trucks, which the consultants themselves state are individually more dangerous than a standard HGV, relies on a significant reduction in lorry miles, which we have exposed as unfounded. The assumptions for safety and environmental improvement depend entirely on the prediction of a dramatic reduction in vehicles kilometres which are derived from incorrect calculations, as we have proved."

She concluded that "We are shocked that European Commission officials have published inaccurate research on such an important freight policy which could lead to more larger lorries driving around less full resulting in more carbon dioxide emissions, more road congestion and more exposure to road accidents. The research admits that mega trucks would have a detrimental effect on rail freight, the low carbon, energy-efficient alternative."

Longer heavier lorries

Notes to editors

For further information contact please contact Philippa Edmunds at Freight on Rail on 020 8241 9982 mobile 07981 881410 email: web site

Members are Direct Rail Services, DB Schenker, Freightliner, ASLEF, RMT, TSSA, UNITE, Rail Freight Group and Campaign for Better Transport

comparitive lengths of vehicles

Directive 96/53 TREN/G3/318/18/2007examining adapting weights and dimensions of lorries. Research carried out by TM Leuven for EU. See MTRU analysis of EC research on mega trucks.

Rail freight produces around four times less carbon dioxide emissions per tonne carried2.

An aggregates train can remove 120 HGVs from our roads3.

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 mega trucks are using the same flawed arguments again.

The British Government took the lead in rejecting mega trucks4 and listened to the public. However if the EU gives the go-ahead for mega trucks to be used on cross-border traffic across member states, it would mean that mega trucks would be imposed upon the UK over time.

1. Flawed EC sponsored research

a) The EC research was carried out by TML. The key error is in the calculation of the how many mega trucks are needed to replace the current HGVs. While the carrying capacity is 50% greater, this does not mean that only 50% of the lorries are needed. In fact, a 50% increase in payload means that three HGVs at the current limit could be replaced by two mega trucks - a 33% reduction. GVs at the current limit are replaced by two HGV The TML report used a 50% reduction figure.

b) We have also been waiting for clarification on another probable major mistake in the research since March 9th 2009 and until we get a response to what is a simple question, we can only assume that this is another error which further distorts the case in favour of mega trucks, to which the consultants do not want to admit. The consultants assume that mega trucks will run full, even when the HGVs they replace may not have done so and additionally they assume that this will not affect the load factors of the HGVs they replace. This is completely unrealistic.

2. Rail is a safer way of distributing freight.

Road accidents cost the UK £19Billion in 2007

The European Commission's own research in Jan 2009 stated that mega trucks 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

3. EC consultants chose to ignore Transport Research Laboratories (TRL) research, undertaken for the British Government in 2008, which concluded that mega trucks had serious road safety implications and would undermine rail freight, a low carbon energy efficient alternative which reduces road congestion.

4. Transport Research Laboratories Research indicates that there is a direct conflict between manoeuvrability at slow speeds and preventing snaking of double articulated mega trucks at cruising speeds."

5. Road haulage industry has a poor record in complying with existing road regulations

Despite the fact that we highlighted this omission in April 08, it appears that no study has been undertaken to investigate lack of compliance with existing road regulations by HGVs which puts other road users at extra risk.

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.

6. Mega trucks 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. Mega trucks 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.

7. 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.

Freight on Rail summary comments on TM Leuven research (see full attached MTRU report for Freight on Rail)

a) The bulk of their research has avoided looking at different elasticities and the elasticity used in the main model is too low which means that the amount of traffic transferred from rail and water is

b) The rebound effect seems to be neglected. In the absence of lorry user charging to internalise all the costs of road freight transport to society, Mega trucks would mean more lorry-miles not fewer because demand will be stimulated as mega trucks could reduce road haulage costs by up to 20% according to the freight industry.

c) The load factor assumptions for mega trucks appear over-optimistic based on previous evidence.

d) Road safety implications do not appear to compare like with like nor do they include a major incident analysis. Due to their size and scale mega trucks would be more dangerous.

e) The infrastructure cost section appears to have omitted adaptions that will be needed for tunnels, intersections, access ramps, slip roads, parking, refuelling and rest areas.


1. Mega trucks would be 25.5 metres long and 60 tonnes in weight
2. DfT Logistics Perspective Dec 08 Rail produces around 0.05 kg of CO2 per tonne carried compared to around 0.17 kg per tonne carried for road
3. Network Rail 2008
4. RT Hon Ruth Kelly MP Secretary of State for Transport announcement to House of Commons 3rd June 2008

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