Last week, MEPs in the EU Transport Committee voted to reject further cross-border use of so-called 'mega trucks'- huge lorries 82ft (25 metres) long, which are bad for congestion, bad for safety and bad for road maintenance. Crucially, mega trucks would also devastate rail freight, the low carbon, energy efficient, safer alternative, encouraging freight off rail onto the roads.
The European Commission admitted that mega trucks, which are three times as long as a double decker bus and equivalent in weight to 52 cars, are more dangerous than existing HGVs. In the UK, current trucks are involved in 52% of fatal motorway accidents even though they only make up 11% of the traffic, so increasing their size and weight would be madness.
As it is, lorries are paying for only between a third and two-thirds of the damage they inflict on society in terms of road collisions, congestion, road damage, environmental pollution and impact on other road users, leaving taxpayers to pick up the rest of the bill. Introducing mega trucks would exacerbate this situation, and the case for them has not been made. How can even bigger trucks be justified when existing ones continue to drive around partially empty much of the time?
This was a crucial stage in the campaign against these massive 'travelling warehouses'. MEPs have rightly stated that detailed research to establish the full safety, road congestion and pollution impacts of these massive vehicles must be carried out before further international transport is allowed.
We are pleased that the UK Government has already said it will not allow mega trucks to circulate here in the UK. However, we know that it would come under huge pressure from the road haulage industry on competition grounds to allow mega trucks to operate here once they are allowed to travel internationally. Our Government has already caved in to road haulage industry pressure and allowed trials of 7ft longer trucks which have bigger tail swings, bigger blind spots and inferior maneuverability.
So this vote in Brussels was absolutely crucial. But the debate is not over. Now the vote has to be confirmed by the plenary of the European Parliament in April, before individual Members States will then have their say, and we will be there every step of the way.