Business, Freight News, Logistics, Road

Penning OKs longer truck trials

[ October 11, 2011   //   ]

Roads Minister Mike Penning has given the green light to limited trails of longer trucks on UK roads. Following consultation on proposals to allow a two metre increase in the length of articulated lorries, the Department for Transport is allowing a ten-year trial of up to 900 trailers at an increased length of 2.05 metres, and 900 that would be one metre longer. There will be no increase to the current 44-tonne maximum  weight limit. Mike Penning said that the longer trucks would offer up to 13% more volume and could boost the haulage industry’s by 33%.

The changes would increase maximum loading length of semi-trailers from the current 13.6 metres to 15.65 metres. This is the same loading length currently allowed for rigid truck / drawbar trailer combination vehicles, the limit for which would remain at 18.75 metres.

A DfT spokeswoman said that it was highly unlikely that there would be a general application of the new length limit before the expiry of the trial in ten years’ time, but pointed out that the number of vehicles that would be included in the test was “quite generous”.

At the Freight Transport Association, head of engineering policy Andy Mair said: “FTA research suggests that there are significant environmental and efficiency benefits on offer from deploying these vehicles.  But it is not a vehicle for all sectors and will only be viable on journeys where the goods carried are high volume, low weight as vehicle fill can be improved.
FTA believes that should there be an over-subscription for higher volume semi-trailers under the trial, operators who can demonstrate the greatest efficiency benefits should be prioritised, he added: “The allocation process of trailers should seek to maximise the potential carbon saving benefit that their deployment could yield – the process should be based on evidence of what the trailer will be used for, the intensity of their use in terms of vehicle kilometres and load fill. The Department must avoid a free-for-all auction where operators speculatively apply for high volume semi-trailer permits which are then either not taken up or used infrequently.”

In its consultation response to the proposals, FTA had earlier argued that businesses should be allowed flexibility in developing semi-trailer designs under the trial to without overdue restriction on heights or any tightening of existing manoeuvrability requirements. Tougher standards could mean fitting heavier, more costly, axles, therefore compromising payload and commercial viability.

The Rail Freight Group said it was deeply disappointed at the decision. It said that DfT’s research showed that full introduction of longer lorries “would have a devastating impact on the prospects for rail freight growth in the retail sector” and there were also safety concerns.

Considerably longer, 25.5m, vehicles have been allowed in Sweden for some time and their use is being extended to other Scandinavian and EU countries. However, the DfT stressed that it had no intention of allowing vehicles of such length on UK roads. A freight forwarder contacted by FBJ said that there had been few if any problems operating long trucks in Sweden although they were best suited to inter-depot operations on motorways and trunk roads.