Calls for larger lorries continue

16/04/2012

The road haulage industry continues to call for larger, heavier lorries despite recent statistics released by the government revealing that half of lorries are not constrained by weight or volume and approximately 27% of lorries on the road are completely empty.

However, despite these figures, the government gave the green light for lorries that are two metres longer on the grounds. They believe longer lorries will lead to more efficiency and reduce pollution despite previous increases in lorry dimensions showing no evidence of leading to heavy goods vehicles carrying more per journey or national reductions in heavy goods vehicles traffic.

In reality, the two metre increase in lorry length and therefore 17% increase in trailer length will become the standard sized lorry on UK roads. Statistics show that hauliers usually buy the largest vehicle permitted and use it for large and small loads, irrespective of the impact on efficiency and consolidation.

Opposition to the larger lorries believe that the government’s assessments significantly under estimate the safety, road congestion and environmental impacts of longer lorries on society and the economy as well as putting certain lorry industry interests ahead of important issues such as road safety and carbon reduction.

Of 318 road transport companies consulted by the Department for Transport only 41 responded in support for the two metre increase in length. The 41 operators in support of the increase in truck length are likely to be large transport and logistics operators who will be able to make use of the extra volume and therefore increase their efficiency. However, the majority of freight forwarders and transport and logistics companies are set to lose out by having to buy and run new longer vehicles for general use, mostly not utilising the extra capacity.

Other considerations, potentially not taken into account are the additional infrastructure costs. This includes the increased repair and maintenance costs to local authorities, which manage 98% of the road network in terms of miles as well as the bridge strengthening exercise to cater for the existing 40/44 ton vehicles.

The Department for Transport justified the larger lorries through research which concluded that the two metre longer heavy goods vehicles would not be any more dangerous than existing vehicles driven by ruling out any impacts of longer lorries from most collisions and ignoring the effect of the increased tail swing and larger blind spots when turning.

The assumptions for safety and environmental improvement depend entirely on the prediction of a dramatic reduction in vehicles kilometres on the premise that two mega trucks would replace three existing sized heavy goods vehicles.

If the current European Commission review of the directive controlling weights and dimensions of Heavy Goods Vehicles allows cross-border traffic between member states of mega trucks of 25 metre and up to 60 tonne lorries it will be difficult for the government to resist pressure from the road haulage industry to allow them to come to the UK.

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