As the consultation on longer lorries closes, the government has to make a decision on whether to go ahead with the proposal to allow articulated vehicles of up to 18.75m on the roads – 2.05m more than now.
The proposal does not involve an increase in maximum weight from the current 44 tonnes.
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.
Launching the consultation in March, 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.
However, there has been opposition to the proposals from the rail freight lobby as well as from some hauliers who fear they would be forced to invest in new equipment that they could ill afford.
In a last minute attack on the proposal, the Rail Freight Group warned that longer semi-trailers would have a devastating effect on the rail freight industry.
The RFG is particularly upset by the DfT’s impact assessment which shows that the introduction of these longer lorries would reduce domestic rail freight growth by two thirds by 2025, and says it fails to properly address the viability of the remaining traffic on rail.
“Worse, the analysis goes onto state this reduction as a benefit to the logistics sector, with some 84 per cent of the quoted cost savings associated with longer lorries coming from reduced rail costs.”
Supporters of the increase include the Freight Transport Association as well a major operators such Stobart and Wincanton. Andy Mair, head of engineering policy at the FTA, 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.”