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Calls to restrict dangerous longer lorries as Government set to allow more onto UK roads

26 Janauary 2017

Campaigners have criticised the Government’s decision today to increase the number of longer lorries on UK roads on safety grounds.

The lorries, which are 15 per cent (7ft) longer than standard HGVs, are currently being trialled on UK roads. Campaign for Better Transport and the Local Government Technical Advisers’ Group (TAG) says the decision to increase the number of vehicles in the trial is based on incorrect research and is urging the Government to restrict their use on urban roads to protect other road users.

Philippa Edmunds, Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The Government’s decision to allow even more longer lorries onto UK roads is based on incorrect assumptions and flawed research. The supposed environmental and safety benefits of longer lorries are partial and not derived from scientific data. The Government does not even know which minor roads the lorries are using and for what distances and should be collecting this data via GPS or telematics before it even considers an extension of the trial.

“By extending this trial by an additional five years we are extremely concerned that the Government is ignoring the very real danger posed by these longer lorries on urban roads, which unlike the strategic road network, are totally unsuitable for these vehicles because the extended rear tail swing is double that of existing HGVs. In order to reduce the risks to other road users, especially cyclists and pedestrians, these longer lorries must to be restricted to local authority defined routes immediately.”

Martin Sachs, Secretary of TAG National Transport Committee, said: “The Department of Transport needs to work with local authorities who are responsible for nearly 98 per cent of the road network to find a way to minimise the impact of these 7ft longer trailers, particularly on urban routes. We need to ensure that there are no increased risks to the safety of other road users and that roadside property and highway infrastructure are protected. We need to ensure the costs of these measures are borne by the industry, which will benefit from the introduction of longer trailers, as highway authorities have no slack in their budgets."

According to Campaign for Better Transport and TAG the Government’s claims that longer lorries produce less carbon emission and are safer than standard HGV are unreliable because:

  • There is no independent analysis of the safety or fuel efficiency efficiency of longer lorries. The only analysis relies totally on information submitted by the haulage operators taking part in the trial
  • There is currently no data available on which roads are being used by the lorries in the trial or for what distances or for how long. Instead of getting this accurate information using GPS, the DfT is proposing that its consultants will use origin and destination post codes to model likely routes which is no substitute for accurate data.
  • Even the latest Risk Solutions report, written for the Department for Transport, itself states that it cannot judge the safety of longer lorries on urban roads
  • The lorries in the trial are currently well utilised as it is a self-selecting audience taking part in the trial, but once these trucks become the standard size - as is already being implied by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders -  they will be used for all jobs, whether small or large, exactly as currently happens with standard HGVs and the efficiency benefits will evaporate. Currently almost 30 per cent of HGVs are driving around empty and the rest are only half full
  • The safety assessments are being distorted by using highly subjective criteria to assess whether an incident is related to the length of the semi-trailer and thereby reducing the collisions/incident/damage rates
  • Because of the lack of maneuverability of longer lorries there is a significantly higher risk of them getting stuck or damaging street furniture and buildings. Two operators monitored in the trial using urban roads, still experienced 128 per cent and 177 per cent higher damage incidents per million km using longer lorries than compared to the standard HGVs doing similar trips.


For further information please contact Alice Ridley on 020 7566 6495 / 07984 773 468 or alice.ridley@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. The Department for Transport (DfT) allowed a ten year trial of 7ft (2.05 metres) longer semi-trailer trucks in 2012, even though it was opposed on safety groups by local authority representative groups, road safety, cyclist and environmental groups because of its massive tail swing. The current limit is 16.5m (54ft). It intends to extend the trial, which is now at the half way mark for an additional fice years.
  2. DfT has increased the number of LSTs allowed on UK roads by 1000 today which will take the trial number to a total of around 2,800. Read the DfT press release here
  3. Examples of the distortion of the safety assessments include where a driver lost control of the vehicle and it left the road and overturned but it was deemed not related to the length of the lorry and instead attributed to the driver being tired, despite the fact that the side forces and momentum differ with a longer trailer. Even where a pedestrian was struck by the extended tail swing of a turning longer lorry, unknown to the driver, it was deemed not strongly representative of normal longer lorry operations. 
  4. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is already implying that these LSTs should be adopted in the future instead of existing full length semi-trailers.
  5. Empty running figures from the DfT and The Centre of Sustainable Road Freight.
  6. Data collected during a partial demonstration of the new longer vehicle at the DfT testing facility MIRA at Nuneaton, Warwickshire on 14 April 2016 showed the rear tail-swing when turning corners was significantly greater than normal HGVs, up from 1.7m (5.5ft) to 3.3m (10.8ft) under normal road conditions. Campaign for Better Transport and the Technical Advisers Group used software to simulate how these longer lorries would perform when undertaking a standard left hand turn after the DfT refused to physically demonstrate the manoeuver, only performing a less acute turn despite repeated requests to be fully transparent about the effects of the vehicles.

          A diagram, aboce, comparing the length of the existing full length articulated lorry with the 7ft longer one is available to download here.

          A graphic showing the effects of the left hand turn is available to download here.

  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. The Local Government Technical Advisers’ Group (TAG) is a professional association incorporated in 1995. It was formed from the Association of Metropolitan District Engineers (AMDE), the Association of London Borough Engineers and Surveyors (ALBES) and the Association of Chief Technical Officers (ACTO) in District authorities in areas where local government responsibilities are divided between Counties and Districts. It serves all levels of local government covering the whole range of local authority technical services.