23 March 2012: The EU is set to change the rules prohibiting the movement of megatruck traffic across Europe, which could ultimately let these 25-metre-long, 60-tonne monsters onto UK roads.
The EU transport commissioner is proposing to announce a re-interpretation of the European rules which would mean consenting countries could allow cross border traffic of megatrucks; at the moment countries are only allowed to have larger lorries, which do not comply with existing international regulations, to operate within their own borders. The proposal has been met with opposition here and across Europe.
Currently in the UK lorries can be up to in 18.5 metres long and weigh up to 44 tonnes. So called megatrucks operate in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands; in Sweden they are trialing 30-metre-long lorries. Bigger, heavier lorries are more dangerous to other road users and undermine efforts to adopt rail as a more sustainable, safer and environmentally sensible way to move freight.
Whilst the UK Government has said in the past it will not allow megatrucks from Europe on UK roads, the danger is that if European law changes to allow it, the Government will come under increased pressure from the powerful UK haulage industry to let them operate similar sized vehicles here. The UK Government has already shown it buckles under industry pressure when it allowed a ten-year trial of longer, heavier lorries, so our worries are well founded.
With confusion surrounding the legality of the move, we got together with a number of other concerned parties, including the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies, to obtain legal advice on the matter. The legal advice was clear, the current EU directive does indeed prohibit megatruck traffic to cross borders so a new one would need to be drafted and to do that legally the EU Parliament and Council of Ministers would need to be consulted and the appropriate impact assessments would need to be carried out, neither of which have been done.
We are lobbying MEPs and Ministers to demand that the Commission not only carries out a thorough impact assessment of the road congestion, road safety and pollution impacts of this proposed change as it had previously promised, but that the Council of Ministers and the Parliament votes on any proposal in the normal democratic way.
By guest blogger Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail