Freight truck height restrictions could harm trade and the environment

09/12/2011

Recently, the European Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani proposed plans to reduce the current freight truck height limit from 4.65 metres to just 4 metres from 2014.

However, Irish MEP Jim Higgins has requested a meeting with Antonio Tajani to voice his concerns over the proposed height reductions. His concerns relate to his belief that the only countries in the EU to suffer from the reduction in freight truck height limit will be the UK and Ireland as they have infrastructure designed for vehicles up to 4.8 metres in height whilst continental countries have different design standards.

Mr Higgins said:

“Because this is a technical amendment to the Directive Parliament will not have to be consulted. Countries such as Germany, Austria and France have long tunnels which they have built capable of taking trucks of up to 4m in height, and thus impose a 4m height limit. I can understand that they are concerned that foreign trucks might cause damage to the roofs of tunnels and bridges, but Irish infrastructure is built to handle heights of 4.65m. Irish hauliers operating within Ireland should be allowed to operate at above the 4m height limit. So long as they are not leaving Ireland, what is the problem?”

Mr Higgins added that he had received a response to his written concerns which ‘was both ambiguous and not reassuring’. He also expressed concern for the possible implications to the environment which a reduction in the freight truck height limit could have. Reducing the height of large trucks would mean a greater number of smaller trucks on the road to perform the same work load, he argued. This is occurring at a time when the number of trucks on the road should be cut to reduce harmful carbon emissions.

The Freight Transport Association Ireland and the International Road Transport supported the concerns voiced by Mr Higgins. Declan McKeon, Head of Policy at the Freight Transport Association Ireland, said:

“Ireland’s exports rely on an efficient supply chain and restricting trailer heights would cause untold damage to its efforts to pull out of this period of recession. Like Mr Higgins, our concerns have also been highlighted to the Commissioners who, if they forge ahead with this ‘harmonisation at any cost’ approach, could cost industry dearly at a time when Ireland’s fragile economy is incredibly vulnerable.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to trailer heights across every European country simply won’t work; different countries have different infrastructure parameters and the companies that operate commercial vehicles should be trusted to buy and use those trucks that work best for them. Limiting their choice will also limit their ability to optimise their performance – which is bad news for the economy and could impede Ireland’s environmental progress.

“This issue affects all member states in Europe and although it’s a technical amendment, there needs to be an urgent and serious sanity check which reflects the importance of this issue. After all, in the last ten years alone the Irish logistics sector has invested in around 1,000 trailers exceeding four metres. Freight Transport Association Ireland will be working hard with other industry bodies and stakeholders, including the Freight Transport Association in the UK, to convince the policy makers to decapitate the current proposal.”