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Flawed EU report could lead to longer heavier lorries coming to UK by

19th January 2009

Reacting to European Commission sponsored research into longer and heavier lorries just published, Freight on Rail said if followed this would force the UK and other countries to accept huge juggernauts which would be fifty per cent longer and a third heavier than existing sized HGVs.

The British Government took the lead in rejecting LHVs1, with all party support, and listened to the public. However if the EU gives the go-ahead for LHVs to be used on cross-border traffic across member states, it could mean that LHVs would be imposed upon the UK.

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail campaigner stated that, "This research is based on flawed arguments and modelling which neither calculate the extent to which rail freight will be forced back onto the roads, nor reflects the rebound effects of reducing road freight costs. The assumptions for safety and environmental improvement depend entirely on the prediction of a dramatic reduction in vehicles kilometres which are derived from questionable maths."

She added that, "Road and rail modes can complement each other but trunk movements of large quantities of freight can be more safely and sustainably carried by rail2, rather than ever larger lorries. LHV supporters have to address the existing record by the road haulage industry on compliance with road regulations and the potential dangers of LHVs given their size and lack of manoeuvrability.Existing sized lorries are still 40 times heavier, 4 times longer, three times more likely to be involved in road fatalities, twice as noisy, and thousands of times more damaging to the road surface than cars and produce at least three times more carbon dioixide, per tonne carried, than rail."

In summary, Philippa Edmunds said " The study is flawed - the environmental and economic benefits it identifies are illusory and ignore the safety and intrusion these massive vehicles would bring. We hope that MEPs and member Governments will ensure that these juggernauts stay on the drawing board and do not enter UK roads."

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

Directive 96/53 TREN/G3/318/18/2007 examining adapting weights and dimensions of lorries. Research carried out by TM Leuven for EU.

Freight on Rail summary comments on TM Leuven research

Overall, Freight on Rail does not accept the fundamental argument that underpins the case the proponents make for longer heavier lorries (LHVs); that LHVs will result in less lorries, less emissions and therefore less exposure to accidents. Research commissioned[iii] by Freight on Rail shows that 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.

Safety record of current sized HGVs

On motorways, HGVs are over three times as likely as cars to be involved in fatalities from road accidents per billion kms travelled, because of the forces involved, ie weight and speed implications of HGV traffic travelling faster on motorways.

Source Tables 2&3 TSGB 2007 Goods Vehicles Statistics 2007 Goods Vehicle Accidents and Casualities 2007 all DfT

Conflict between manoeuvrability and stability of LHVs

Transport Research Laboratories research for the Government (June 2008), indicates that to achieve the manoeuvrability needed at slow speeds4, at cruising speeds LHVs would be prone to snaking and oscillation5 which is extremely dangerous to other road users.

Lack of compliance with existing speed restrictions 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. Source: DfT Transport Statistics Traffic Speeds Figure 3.5C for 2007 issued July 2008

VOSA spot checks in October 2008 found that half of UK registered HGVs stopped were breaking the law. IFW 21st October 2008

Freight Statistics

Tonne for tonne carried, rail freight produces between three to five times less carbon dioxide than road - EWS 2008

Transport is responsible for 28% of carbon dioxide emissions in UK6

HGV traffic has grown by 20% since 1990 with a 14% rise in CO2 emissions7. HGVs are responsible for 20% of carbon dioixide emissions from all domestic transport.

Road congestion benefits of rail

An aggregates train can remove 120 HGVs from our roads8


1. RT Hon Ruth Kelly MP Secretary of State for Transport announcement to House of Commons 3rd June 2008

2. Per tonne carried, rail produces between three to five times less carbon dioxide, depending on the cargo, than road transport

3. (see MTRU updated report Feb 2008 Heavier lorries and their impacts on economy and environment

4. To comply with swept path regulations Table 6 TRLReport June 2008 low speed manoeuvrability tests and EU limits

5. Rear amplication TRL report June 2008 Table 4 vehicle characteristics and stability

6. When the emissions from refining petrol included

7. Carbon Pathways DfT 2008

8. Network Rail 2008 

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