The saga of whether larger lorries will be allowed to legally cross borders has taken a sudden and surreal turn, explains ECF Policy Officer Ceri Woolsgrove.
Directive 96/53/EC on the weights and dimensions of lorries that are allowed to cross borders is currently set at a maximum of 18.75 metres and weighing up to 40 tonnes. The larger lorries can be up to 25.25 metres and 60 tonnes. Since currently lorries make up about 3% of the EU vehicle fleet, but give rise to 14 % of fatal collisions, amounting to more than 4 000 annual fatalities, we have grave concerns about allowing larger versions throughout Europe.
However there is uncertainty and reporting elsewhere (here, here and here) about whether the Commission may announce by the end of the month the widening of a loophole in the legislation to allow cross border use.
There are two issues at stake in updating the legislation
The Commission stated that regarding the first issue the trailers of the lorries will not be changed, only the cabs. This was good news, lorries will not be larger and we could even look for ways to increase lorry safety and efficiency by tinkering with the cab design.
The second issue involves a loophole in the law that allows countries to set up trials in their countries. Some have interpreted this as setting up cross border trials and there are trials currently taking place in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden.
It is being reported that this is what the Commission will make an announcement on and also that they may be widening this loophole rather than closing it. We sincerely hope that this is not the case as it is an extremely important issue that many citizens and organisations are very concerned about.
Those in the haulage industry believe that larger lorries will be able to take larger loads and so will therefore mean less lorries on the roads in total; therefore less accidents and cleaner transport. However there is a counter argument that says that larger lorries and larger loads are cheaper lorries and cheaper loads; this means that road haulage prices would decrease meaning a shift from rail to road and more lorries on the road!
In updating the legislation it is essential that it is done in the public sphere. The point of the legislation is to transparently and clearly set out what is the maximum size of vehicle that cross borders in Europe. Updating this legislation is the job of the Parliament and Council through the co-decision procedure.
However if the Commission were to unilaterally allow for ‘trials’ and widen the loophole that some countries are already trying to use, it could effectively allow cross border use of larger lorries without recourse to the democratic process.
Ceri Woolsgrove is the ECF Policy Officer for Road Safety & Technical Issues. He is from the UK and has worked extensively in London, Brighton, Liverpool (UK), Hang Zhou (China) and now in Brussels. His previous employment was for an organisation representing the transport industry in Brussels. Ceri has a Master’s degree in Globalization and International Policy Analysis from the University of Bath, and Social and Political Thought from the University of Sussex