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UK Government must act to stop 25 metre long lorries coming from continent.

28th December 2011

Campaigners are warning that 25 metre long mega trucks weighing up to 60 tonnes could become the norm on UK roads if the Government does not oppose European proposals to allow cross border mega trucks traffic.

The European Commission is proposing changes that would allow mega trucks traffic between consenting countries. The current UK limit for lorries is 16.5 metres and 44 tonnes, but the Government recently approved a ten year trial of 18.5 metre long lorries, which is due to start in January.

Campaigners argue that once European mega trucks are allowed to cross between member states, large UK haulage companies will claim they are unfairly disadvantaged and pressurise the Government to further extend the maximum size and weight to allow UK hauliers to operate 25 metre 60 tonne vehicles on UK roads. 

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail manager, said: “The UK Government must oppose the European Commission proposals to allow cross border mega trucks traffic now otherwise in reality the Government will not be able to resist them in the future. The impacts of lorries two metre longer have not even been assessed yet, let alone an additional eight metres. Allowing mega trucks will lead to more road fatalities, more congestion and more pollution and will be disastrous for the rail freight industry which has the potential to take thousands more long distance lorry journeys off the road reducing congestion, road accidents and carbon emissions.

Bringing mega trucks to the UK could also cost the tax payer dearly. Mega trucks are 50 per cent longer and a third heavier than existing HGVs. The cost of adapting road infrastructure to cater for mega trucks 1, such as strengthening bridges, is likely to run into billions.  In Austria, a much smaller country than the UK, adaption costs have been estimated at €5 billion. 

Notes to editors

1. European Commission, Transport Directorate DGMOVE Review of Directive 96/53/EC weights and dimensions of HGVs. See attached word file 2012-02-27-public-consultation- weights-and-dimensions.

The stated aim of this consultation is to clarify rules for international traffic of bigger/heavier HGVs, ie mega trucks, which do not comply with existing regulations. It uses the terminology EMS or Modular concept which means mega trucks, ie 25 metre up to 60 tonnes HGVs. The reality is that if changes are made to allow international circulation of mega trucks across borders, mega trucks will come to the UK by default over time.  ref Legal clarification section 6.4 P17, all the questions 1-6 could lead to relaxation of the current restrictions and in particular questions 1,3 & 6. A detailed briefing is available on request.

Freight on Rail supports other measures proposed in the revision:- ref section 6.2 Energy & CO2 efficiency P5

a) to enhance cab aerodynamics to improve safety and fuel efficiency providing that cab conditions for drivers are also improved  on the grounds that this approach is a much better way to increase safety, reduce pollution and fuel consumption rather than increasing lorry sizes.

b) Cater for 45 ft containers as long as the loading capacity dimensions are not changed ref section 6.3 P11 Intermodality and innovation in transport needs


2. The European Commission's own research in Jan 2009 stated that mega trucks are individually more dangerous than standard HGVs (TML Effects of adapting the rules on weights and dimensions of HGVs as established within directive 96/53/EC, p14, penultimate line, 6 November 2008, DGTREN website). Mega trucks have the potential to be considerably more dangerous to road users. The double articulation of a mega trucks improves maneuverability at slow speeds, but increases side to side oscillation i.e. a ‘snake’ effect (rear amplification) and problems with other maneuvers at cruising speeds, for example changing lane on a dual carriageway. Overall weight and length increases would increase the forces involved and thus the strength of these outswing movements.

3. Review of Government proposals for longer semi trailers,  an independent report from transport consultants MTRU commissioned by Freight on Rail, concluded extending the maximum lorry length to 18.5 metres could lead to six extra deaths per year, result in 4 to 8 per cent more collisions and lose small and medium sized hauliers up to £1.8 billion in depreciation costs over five years.

4.  Existing HGVs are over three times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than cars on major roads due to a combination of size, lack of proper enforcement of drivers' hours, vehicle overloading and differing foreign operating standards (Source: Traffic statistics 2010 table TRA0104, Accident statistics Table RAS 30017, both DfT

5. LHVs would destroy the majority of rail freight which has a much better environmental record than road and force trainloads of freight back onto our congested roads. UK rail freight produces 70 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than the equivalent road journey (Department for Transport Logistics Perspective Dec 2008, p8, section 10).
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 found that up to 40% of aggregates currently carried by rail could switch to road.

6. Rail freight is also more energy efficient as a gallon of diesel will carry a tonne of freight 246 miles by rail as opposed to 88 miles by road. An average consumer freight train can carry as much as 60 HGVs and an aggregates train can carry as much as 160 HGVs (The value of freight, Network Rail, July 2010).

7. The economic and environmental case for longer lorries relies on the same questionable presumption used in the past to justify each increase in lorry dimensions, that there would be fewer but bigger trucks on the roads. In practice however, since the previous increases in dimensions there is no direct evidence of larger or heavier lorries leading to improvements in average payloads or a reduction in empty running. One in four HGVs are driving around empty 2 and almost half lorries are only partially full 3.

8. Freight on Rail is a partnership between the rail trade unions, the rail freight industry and Campaign for Better Transport. It works to promote the economic, social and environmental benefits of rail freight both nationally and locally.  

1. HGVs are up to 160,000 times more damaging to road surfaces than the average car; some of the heaviest road repair costs are almost exclusively attributable to the heaviest vehicles.

2. DfT figures CSRGT MTRU report 2011 P24 Chart 6

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

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