Themes: CargoSafety
05. December 2016

Pro-Rail Alliance warns on unpublished Gigaliner report

Minister wants to allow longer HGVs; ministry keeps trial conclusions secret

After five years of road trials of longer HGVs, transport minister Dobrindt is intending to allow the unrestricted use of the 25 metre vehicles. Car drivers will have to get used to the seeing the very long vehicle on the inside lane.
After five years of road trials of longer HGVs, transport minister Dobrindt is intending to allow the unrestricted use of the 25 metre vehicles. Car drivers will have to get used to the seeing the very long vehicle on the inside lane.

Berlin, December 5, 2016. The German Pro-Rail Alliance has reacted with incomprehension to transport minister Alexander Dobrindt’s draft regulation on allowing the unrestricted use of longer vehicles. The draft text was sent by the Federal Transport Ministry (BMVI) to transport organisations for their comments, whereas the final report from the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) has only been seen by the ministry and is obviously going to be kept secret. “We were astonished to learn that the final report from the researchers accompanying the trials has already been sent to the BMVI but has neither been published nor sent to the transport organisations. To ensure that the effects of the intended approval for longer HGVs is properly evaluated, we believe that this approach is inappropriate,” said the Pro-Rail Alliance in its comments, which were sent today. The whole logic behind giving longer vehicles unrestricted approval is still very much in doubt, criticised the Pro-Rail Alliance, referring to the open issues noted in the draft regulation. “For example, the explanatory statement in the regulation mentions, among other things, safety problems caused by emergency bays in tunnels that are too short, increased fire load and vehicles having to stray into neighbouring lanes. The consequences for road safety of approving longer vehicles cannot simply be brushed aside by pointing to the low number of vehicles that took part in the trials,” warned the transport alliance in its response.

Trials: serious conclusions are not possible

“The casual way the BASt report is being handled exposes these so-called road trials as a scientific fig leaf,” said the managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege. None of the fundamental concerns about allowing longer HGVs have been refuted by the trials. “Because only a few longer vehicles were involved in the trials, the report cannot make any serious conclusions about the risk of shifting freight from the railways to the roads, or the dangers for car drivers. We therefore continue to completely reject allowing their unrestricted use. There are numerous studies that are unequivocally against allowing longer trucks or further trials,” said Flege, who referred to the Pro-Rail Alliance’s comprehensive statement.

Final trial conclusions: longer trucks are dangerous, expensive and damage the environment

In the final days of the five-year trials of longer heavy goods vehicles on designated routes, the Pro-Rail Alliance verdict on the whole concept of longer vehicles is a clear rejection:

  • Longer HGVs are dangerous for car drivers. Even today, heavy goods vehicle is involved in one if five fatal accidents, which is why the majority of Germans are opposed to these vehicles, according to a survey by the pollsters Forsa. The trials cannot refute the safety risks because only a few vehicles were involved in the road trials.
  • Longer HGVs are expensive for taxpayers because bigger trucks will disproportionally damage the already ailing road infrastructure. The public will also be asked to pay for upgrades to tunnels and parking bays, even though the Federal Transport Ministry has only just cut road toll charges on HGVs.
  • Longer HGVs will damage the environment because by lowering the cost of road transport, freight will be shifted from the railways to the roads. This will result in an increase, not a reduction in HGVs on Germany’s roads, to the detriment of environmentally friendly rail freight transport. This is something that the road trials with only a small number of vehicles could not show.

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 road 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 64 tonnes to 74 tonnes. Trials of trucks measuring 30 metres and weighing up to 90 tonnes are underway.

Longer HGV = 25.25 metres, Standard HGV = 18.75 metres, Car = 4.2 metres

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2. Where can longer HGVs 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 trials are set to run for five years and will conclude at the end of 2016.

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 German Association of the Automotive Industry VDA, the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services BGA, 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 and EU transport ministers last year rejected 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. Whereas trials of LHVs are currently taking place in several member states, the EU has now shown the so-called Gigaliners a stop sign. With its proposals for improving safety and optimising aerodynamics, it is taking a completely different approach.

Video: Gigalinger – horror-vision for Germany (German, 5:50 min.)