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Mega trucks threat from Europe.

27th March 2012

At a heated European Parliament Transport Committee meeting last night (26 March), Europe’s top transport official, Commissioner, Siim Kallas, was forced to rethink his proposals for a re-interpretation of the European rules to allow cross border traffic of mega trucks between consenting countries, delaying the possibility of mega trucks on UK roads.

At the moment, countries are only permitted to have larger HGVs, which do not comply with existing international regulations, to operate within their own borders 1 . Allowing cross border traffic of mega trucks would mean that these 25 metre, 60 tonne vehicles could in time come to the UK by default as the road haulage industry will claim that it is being unfairly discriminated against without them.

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail Manager said,” Whilst the UK Government says it will not allow mega trucks on UK roads, the danger is that if European law changes to allow it, the Government will come under increased pressure from the powerful UK haulage industry to let them operate similar sized vehicles here. The UK Government has already shown it buckles under industry pressure when it allowed a ten-year trial of 7ft longer lorries, so our worries are well founded. The Commissioner needs to follow the normal legal and democratic procedures and consider the road congestion, pollution and safety impacts of mega trucks 2. Were the Commissioner to defy the Parliament and proceed with this change now, it would make a mockery of European democracy and destroy all hope of meeting the agreed pollution and congestion reduction targets.”

The Commissioner had stated as recently as December 2011 that cross border traffic of mega trucks was illegal 3 and that its own research was not robust enough to make a judgment on the impacts of mega trucks yet 4. The Commissioner's apparent u-turn last night was met with unanimous opposition from MEPs, across the political spectrum, who objected to the lack of consultation with elected MEPs and Ministers as well as the absence of a full assessment of the likely impacts.

Notes to editors

1. Currently in the UK lorries the vast majority of lorries are 16.50 metres long, while around 2% of lorries are 18.75 metres, all with a weight limit of 44 tonnes. So called mega trucks which would be fifty per cent longer and a third heavier than existing lorries, operate in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands; in Sweden they are trialing 30 metre long lorries so if the rules are further relaxed with no maximum limit set, 30 metre lorries could be adopted here over time.

2. Safety
Mega trucks have increased dangers due to their size and lack of manoeuverability including increased risk of snaking at cruising speeds because of the double articulation needed for manoeuverability in urban conditions [i]. The European Commission's own research in Jan 2009 stated that mega trucks are individually more dangerous than standard HGVs [ii]. Rail freight which is safer than road, would be severely undermined by this policy change which would see trainloads of freight returning to the roads.

3. - December 2011 when the Commission stated that directive is currently understood as prohibiting in general cross border transport with vehicles deviating from the maximum weights and dimensions – Consultation Paper Review of Directive 96/53/EC 21 Dec 2011

-July 2011 Commissioner Kallas affirmed that international traffic was prohibited: “(…) The maximum authorised weight and dimensions of vehicles for national and international road traffic are governed by EU legislation, namely Directive 96/53/EC, which does not currently authorise the longer and heavier trucks (…) for international road transport.” [iii]

-March 2010 Kallas explicitly excluded “(…) cross-border trials, which [are] in any case (…) not in conformity with the provisions of the directive.” [iv]

4. Commission stated in December 2011 that the impact of mega trucks had not been properly assessed. The discussion and experience so far have not produced a mature position as to the long-term impact of a move towards such vehicles, notably as regards infrastructure, road safety, environment and modal shift. The Commission will take stock of all relevant information on this subject dimensions – Consultation Paper Review of Directive 96/53/EC 21 Dec 2011

[i] TRL research for UK Government – Table 27 Assessments of results of handling characteristiscs according to Knight 2008 and Wohrmann 2008 Therefore the extra articulation will reduce turning space at slow speed, but this same feature increases the likelihood of a “snake” occurring at higher speeds, for example changing lane on a dual carriageway.

[ii] TML Effects of adapting the rules on weights and dimensions of HGVs P14 penultimate line 6 November 2008 DGTREN website

[iii] Question by Ismail Ertug (H-000226/11): Read more

[iv] Read more

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