The powerful European road lobby plans to force Britain and other countries to accept some of the world’s biggest trucks on the grounds that they will reduce traffic congestion and be less polluting.
The “megatrucks” would be more than 80ft (25.2m) long and weigh 60 tonnes, nearly a third longer and heavier than any vehicle allowed on British roads at present. The trucks would probably tow several trailers and effectively be “road trains”.
Details are contained in a new research paper for the European commission (EC), which is expected to lead to proposals for a binding European directive in 2010.
Megatrucks, which can have as many as 10 axles and weigh more than a Boeing 737, are only allowed Buy Viagra in the sparsely populated and flat nations of Finland and Sweden and are not permitted to travel across borders. But the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark are running tests and France is keen to begin trials.
Former transport secretary Ruth Kelly rejected the trucks last year after a study which concluded that they were unsuitable for British roads. “Not only are there clear environmental drawbacks, but such vehicles would be unsuitable for many roads and junctions, while providing the infrastructure to accommodate them would require substantial investment,” she said.
But a commission source confirmed to the Guardian that a transport directive was being planned which would eventually lead to their introduction across Europe. “The EC is moving in this direction. Many states want them. There is pressure for a new directive. The intention is to study the issue further and move towards a directive next year,” he said.
The European road lobby, led by haulage companies in the Netherlands, is strongly pressing for them to be introduced because studies show they are 15-30% cheaper to run than normal HGV trucks per unit of freight. The lobby is eager to claw back cargo that has been diverted to railways and argues that megatrucks are more environmentally friendly than rail.
“Megatrucks could significantly reduce the number of trucks on roads. Standard trucks emit more than three times as much carbon dioxide and about 2.9 times as much nitrogen oxide per unit of freight as an average freight train,” says the research paper. It added that one third of all articulated lorry trips could be suitable for megatrucks.
Studies have been divided over the costs and benefits of megatrucks. One Dutch report predicted lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, as well as a fall in fatal accidents. But other research suggests the opposite. There is little doubt, however, that the lower cost would move freight off railways and that large investments would be needed to strengthen roads and bridges. Increased noise pollution would also occur, partly due to the greater number of axles.
Opponents of megatrucks are supported by the UK transport research laboratory and the German environmental agency which both concluded last year that they would be environmentally damaging. “On the whole, megatrucks do not contribute towards sustainable development of freight transport. Their use relieves neither the environment nor road infrastructure. On the contrary, additional risks to road safety have to be expected as well as the environmentally unfavourable shifting of freight transport to the road,” the German agency concluded.
“We’re very concerned about mega-trucks,” said Tony Armstrong, the chief executive of Living Streets, formerly the Pedestrians’ Association. “This proposal could have a huge negative impact on road safety . These monsters will cause alarm to residents. Any proposals to bring these trucks to the UK should be strongly resisted”.
Even motoring organisations expressed concern: “British drivers feel intimidated by large lorries. They will not be welcome on UK roads. One problem is that they may obscure signs,” said Paul Watters, AA head of roads policy.
But the Road Haulage Association said that the move to longer, heavier vehicles was already happening in Europe. “They are part of the future. In the meantime, longer trailers would make a big difference,” said a spokewoman.
Source – Guardian.co.uk