The government has launched a consultation into proposals for a two metre increase in the length of articulated lorries operating within the existing weight limit of 44 tonnes.
This would take the maximum permitted length of an articulated vehicle to 18.75 metres but would not allow any increase in overall weight.
The Department for Transport estimates that this move could increase capacity for hauliers transporting lightweight goods by up to 13 per cent and cut carbon emissions by around one hundred thousand tonnes each year.
Transport minister Mike Penning said: “These proposals would allow haulage firms to use one larger truck where previously they may have needed to send two vehicles. This will help to make our haulage industry cleaner and greener as well as allowing businesses greater flexibility without compromising safety.
“I hope that everyone with an interest in this issue will take time to look at this consultation and let us know their views on this proposed change.”
Eddie Stobart has welcomed the consultation. It has conducted research into the benefits of extended trailer lengths and has developed two prototype high volume semi-trailers, as well as a mid-length extended trailer at 950mm longer than the current 13,600mm standard.
William Stobart, group chief operating officer, said: “Internal research within Eddie Stobart, using our longest prototype development trailer at 15,650mm, suggests that this would be best suited to ‘closed loop’ transport operations, to and from the same locations, for fast moving consumer goods.”
The Freight Transport Association also welcomed the proposals. Andy Mair, head of engineering policy, said: “Increasing the length of semi-trailers makes business sense and environmental sense, as it will improve logistics efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the freight industry.
“Not all operators running artics will go out and buy these trailers. The demand for high volume semi-trailers is expected to be confined to specific market sectors where products carried are bulky and low density. The majority of carriers are expected to remain at existing trailer lengths which provide greater operational flexibility where vehicle activity has the potential to be weight constrained.”
However, the idea has been less well received by the Road Haulage Association. In January, director of policy Jack Semple said: “The transport industry has long suspected that this policy is being driven primarily (although not exclusively) by supermarkets along with one specific transport contractor and the way in which Mr Penning has expressed his view, that he is looking at proposals to ‘add more crates to the back of certain vehicles’, will do nothing to diminish that view.”
|The consultation period runs until 21st June. Click here to download a copy of the consultation document.|
Semple was calling on the minister to publish the evidence for longer trailers saying: “Mr Penning may have convinced himself that the evidence points to longer trailers being a good idea but he is denying operators in the industry the opportunity to make up their own minds, based on the evidence and their own experience, and to contribute their views.
Wincanton has produced an impact study of the longer trailers. Technical services director Dave Rowlands said: “This new vehicle will not only take heavy vehicles off our roads but also provide significant savings and productivity improvements to the transport and haulage industry. At a time when rising prices are having an impact on businesses and consumers alike, we believe the introduction of these vehicles presents a long-term solution to sustained rises in costs.
“Our study reveals that the potential for fuel savings by allowing longer trucks on UK roads is hugely significant. We look forward to the government’s consultation and encourage other organisations in the industry to consider these vehicles as a real solution to saving costs, reducing carbon footprint and improving congestion on the UK’s roads.”
Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail manager, said: “Previous increases in lorry dimensions have resulted in more lorries driving around less full, causing more road congestion and more pollution, which is the reverse of what was claimed would happen. The proponents of longer trailers are using the same flawed arguments again. More than one in four lorries is driving around empty.
“Hauliers tend to buy the largest vehicle permitted and use it for large and small loads irrespective of the impact on road congestion and the environment.”