Themes: CargoEurope
05. June 2014

Safety improvements instead of longer, heaver trucks

EU transport minister against cross-border LHV journeys

Longer, heavier vehicle in Stockholm’s city centre. TheE U transport minister have rejected cross-border LHV journeys.

Berlin/Luxemburg, June 5, 2014. Cross-border journeys by longer, heavier vehicles (LHVs) will remain illegal within the EU. This was determined today by European transport ministers in a joint decision taken on Thursday in Luxemburg. With its decision, the council of ministers followed the vote taken by European parliament, which had already rejected the EU Commission’s suggestion to allow LHVs to make cross-border journeys.

“We are relieved by the decision taken by the European transport ministers,” said Martin Roggermann, coordinator of the European „No Mega Trucks“ alliance, on Thursday in Berlin. “If cross-border journeys by longer trucks had been approved we would have seen LHVs on the roads in many European countries.”

In contrast, the ministers approved suggestions to improve the safety and aerodynamics of heavy goods vehicles – without increasing the loading area. Roggermann pointed out that Europe was taking a different approach to Germany, with its controversial LHV road trials. “Simply making trucks longer and heavier is just not compatible with what is needed today. The EU is putting its faith in better safety and aerodynamics instead of LHVs,” He called on the German government to swiftly conclude the current road trials.

Critics of the oversized trucks say that the whole LHV concept will lead to cost advantages that will unfairly distort competition in favour of road transport. This will lead to freight transport being shifted from the railways back on to the roads and negatively impact traffic safety, the environment and public finances.

Questions and answers on longer, heavier vehicles

1. What actually is a longer, heavier vehicle?
They are known as Gigaliners, EuroCombis, Ecoliners or Long-HGVs, but behind the harmless sounding names are quite simply even longer and heavier goods vehicles. As part of its current so-called field trials, Germany allows trucks measuring 25 metres and weighing up to 44 tonnes. But where LHVs are already being used in other parts of Europe they can weigh up to 60 tonnes, for example in the Netherlands and Denmark. Sweden has just announced that it is increasing the maximum weight from 60 tonnes to 74 tonnes. Trials of trucks measuring 30 metres and weighing up to 90 tonnes are underway.

2. Where can mega trucks be found on Europe’s roads?
LHVs have been in use in Finland and Sweden for some time now. However, Scandinavia’s regions are very spread out and thinly populated, with low volumes of traffic. These countries cannot be compared with the rest of Europe, where the road network is dense and the traffic is very heavy, making them unsuitable for LHVs. In addition, Denmark and the Netherlands are running trials of 25 metre trucks that weigh 60 tonnes.

3. Where are LHVs being used in Germany?
The German government issued an exemption provision in December 2011 to allow trials of LHVs to take place. Apart from motorways and federal roads, the federal government’s provision allows mega trucks to use numerous regional, district and local roads. The following federal states are allowing the use of longer vehicles: Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Hesse, Thuringia, Saxony and Bavaria. Since the change of government in Schleswig-Holstein the state has become more critical of the trials. The trials are due to last five years until 2016. Two appeals to Germany’s constitutional court on the constitutional legality of the government’s decision to allow trials of LHVs on the basis of an exemption provision have been rejected.

4. What are the supporters hoping for?
The supporters of longer vehicles like to back up their cause using environmental arguments, but in reality they are hoping to make savings of up to 30 percent for road transport. The supporters of longer vehicles include the VDA, the German Automobile Industry Association, the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services, and various other road transport associations.

5. What are the opponents afraid of?
The opponents of longer vehicles are afraid that the cost reductions gained by using LHVs will be lead to an increase in the volume of road freight transport. The cost advantage from LHVs could lead to goods being shifted back onto the roads from more environmentally friendly transport modes, resulting in more truck journeys and a greater impact on the environment. The opponents of LGVs include the automobile clubs, environmental groups and railway companies that make up the Pro-Rail Alliance as well as the German Association of Cities and the German Police Union. On the European level, opposition has joined forces in the No Mega Trucks campaign.

6. What has the EU decided on LHVs?
The European parliament rejected by a large majority moves by the EU Commission to make changes to a directive that would allow longer, heavier vehicles (LHVs) to make cross-border journeys between neighbouring countries. Permitting cross-border journeys by longer trucks as part of seemingly harmless changes to a directive on aerodynamics would have opened the floodgates to allow LHVs to be used across many European countries. The EU Commission now has the task of producing a real risk analysis. Whereas trials of LHVs are currently taking place in several member states, the EU has shown the so-called Gigaliners a stop sign. With its proposals for improving safety and optimising  aerodynamics, it is taking a completely different approach.

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