High capacity trucks could save £135m a year

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Allowing high capacity vehicles onto UK roads under controlled conditions could save between £90 million and £135 million a year, according to a report by the University of Huddersfield.

In addition, carbon emissions could be reduced by between 38 thousand and 58 thousand tonnes a year, and the safety of road users would not be compromised.

The study, Impact Assessment: High Capacity Vehicles, was carried out by the Business, Operations, Supply Chain & Transport Research Group of the University of Huddersfield  and was commissioned by Kimberly-Clark Europe.

It assesses the environmental, economic, safety and practical impacts of increasing the maximum length of vehicles in the UK to 25.25m, while maintaining the maximum gross weight at the current UK limit of 44 tonnes.

Practical constraints would limit applications in some circumstances, but there is a significant opportunity to improve the efficiency and sustainability of freight transport and to achieve cost reduction in the transport of low density goods, it said.

It estimated that practical constraints would limit HCV use to approximately 40 per cent to 60 per cent of the total opportunity and net economic and emissions benefits would reduce accordingly, however, substantial benefits would remain.

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Other findings:

* While most rail freight traffic is too heavy to make use of the volumetric carrying capacity of an HCV, this study finds that a maximum of 20 per cent of rail intermodal/deep sea container traffic would be at risk of modal shift from rail to road.

* As rail freight has comparatively lower carbon emissions than road freight, modal shift would result in an increase in the emissions associated with transferring freight.

* This would partially offset the emissions savings from transfer of conventional road traffic to HCV, but, on balance, this study finds that there would be a significant net reduction in carbon emissions.

* In the event that all identified low density road and rail freight traffic migrated to HCV transport, annual transport cost savings are estimated at £226 million, with total carbon emissions reducing by an estimated 96 thousand tonnes per annum.

* Use of HCVs would be likely to reduce the number of large goods carrying vehicles using the UK road network, with total distance travelled by large vehicles reducing by up to four per cent, making a useful contribution to the relief of congestion.

Lobby group Freight on Rail called the study flawed. Manager Philippa Edmunds said, “This partial report, which aims to get the Government to reverse its objection to mega trucks, dismisses the road casualties, road congestion and pollution from mega trucks.”

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