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EU plans to improve lorry design can help reduce carnage on our roads

15 April 2013
Campaign for Better Transport has welcomed the European Commission’s plans to make lorries safer and greener, but warned they could also result in double-articulated mega trucks being allowed on UK roads.

On 15 April, the European Commission will publish proposals which are expected to lead to significant improvements in lorry design (2). Lorries represent 3% of the vehicle fleet but currently cause 25% of road transport emissions and are involved in 18% of fatal crashes, which kill approximately 7,000 people across the EU annually. Changes in the law will improve aerodynamics, lead to better driver vision and reduce the impact of frontal crashes, improving protection for pedestrians and cyclists (3).

Richard Hebditch, Campaigns Director at Campaign for Better Transport said

"European Commission regulations mean we currently have lorries shaped like bricks. This is the worst design imaginable for safety and efficiency. By changing its rules, the Commission has opened the door to smarter lorry design which could be much better for pedestrians, other road users and the environment."

Campaign for Better Transport is also warning that the EU rule change could be a double edged sword. In addition to positive changes, the proposals include provision for 25 metre 'mega trucks' to be allowed to cross borders between countries that allow them (4). Maximum lorry length allowed on UK roads is currently 18.75m and mega trucks are not permitted on UK roads because of concerns over safety and suitability. The rule change is likely to lead to increased pressure from the road haulage industry for their introduction.

Richard Hebditch said

“We need better trucks not bigger trucks. Mega trucks are dangerous and wasteful. Government should continue to resist pressure for their introduction in the strongest terms.”

ENDS

For further information please contact Andrew Allen, Press Officer at Campaign for Better Transport, on 020 7566 6483 / 07984 773 468 or andrew.allen@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to editors

1. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

2. On 15 April, the European Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, will announce proposals to review the Weights and Dimensions regulations (Directive 96/53). A briefing on the announcement from Transport & Environment is available from the Campaign for Better Transport website. Transport & Environment is a Brussels-based NGO campaigning for smarter and greener transport policies at the EU level. It is supported by 50 member organisations including Campaign for Better Transport.

3. European law on lorry sizes currently forces the front end of European lorry cabins to be blunt, which makes lorries inefficient and dangerous. Lorries represent 3% of the vehicle fleet but they cause 25% of road transport emissions and are involved in 18% of fatal crashes, which kill approximately 7,000 people across the EU annually.

Current EU law currently allows 2.35m for the length of a lorry cabin. This leaves no space for a rounder front and hampers progress in fuel efficiency and safety. New regulations will allow for an additional 80cm accompanying a round, deflecting nose and a crash box, or crumple zone. An info-graphic produced by Transport and Environment illustrating the change is available from the Campaign for Better Transport website.

A 2012 study for Transport & Environment by German engineering institute FKA shows that a rounder lorry front could reduce air resistance by 12% and improve fuel economy by 3-5%. This improved fuel economy translates to about 5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions savings. (http://www.transportenvironment.org/publications/smarter-safer-cleaner-how-small-changes-lorry-design-can-make-big-difference)

4. The EU’s current rules for international transport say no lorry can be longer than 18.75 metres. The proposed EU directive would change this, allowing so-called mega trucks up to 25 metres to travel cross-border between countries which allow their use. This length increase is the approximate equivalent of two transit vans (see http://www.fordtransitdirect.co.uk/newsales/newvans/transit/technicalspe...)