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7ft longer lorries, in DfT trial, are not safe on many urban and town centre roads



The Department for Transport (DfT) allowed a ten year trial of 7ft (2.05 metres) longer semi-trailer trucks, which commenced in January 2012, even though it was opposed on safety groups by the vast majority of respondents. Local authority representative groups, road safety, cyclist and environmental groups all opposed the introduction of LSTs because of its massive tail swing. The DfT safety research, justifying 7ft longer lorries was flawed and distorted the statistics. Ever since then, Campaign for Better Transport has been campaigning to stop the LSTs using unsuitable urban roads.

Diagram showing LST lorry in comparison to standard lorry

The standard 16.5 metre truck (red) and the LST (yellow). The reason why the LST is dangerous manoeuvring is because the majority of the extra 7ft is behind the rear axles and thus causes the extended tail swing.

Current situation

The latest annual report,issued on 19th September 2018 claims that longer semi-trailers can reduce congestion, pollution and collisions. Freight on Rail is concerned that the  report  which was compiled by Risk Solutions and is six years into a 15 year trial of the 7ft longer lorries on UK roads, is based on flawed data and incorrect assumptions and ignores important safety factors.

Campaign for Better Transport has written to the Government raising its concerns about the intended roll out of longer lorries on local roads, after the DfT issued its annual report on the trial of longer lorries (published 19 September).

Graph showing proportion of good lifted by articulated weightWe do not believe that the trial of the longer lorries is adequately assessing the impact on local roads or involving local authorities, which manage minor roads which make up 97 per cent of the network. The latest report reveals that 38 per cent of the longer lorry journeys are off the motorway network and yet the majority of local authorities who will be responsible for dealing with the impact of these lorries once they leave the motorways, are unaware of the trial.

The DfT needs to work with local authorities as partners to studythe impacts of longer lorries on all minor roads including urban, town centre and rural roads. Because these are the roads where longer lorries are likely to incur problems, due to their extended tail swing and blind spot - which is almost double that of standard lorries when making right and left turns - putting other, more vulnerable, road users at risk.

Government statistics show that existing sized heavy goods vehicles were almost 7 times as likely as cars to be involved in fatal collisions on minor roads in 2016.

The 7ft longer lorries (LST), have dangerous tail swings, double that of the existing full length lorry, making them especially dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians, on many urban and town centre roads, a fact not accepted by DfT. Although the Government does not know what  local roads the majority of these longer trucks are using and for how long, the DfT increased the number of LSTs  in the trial by one thousand  in 2017 so in total there are up to 2,800 longer lorries on the roads now.

We believe that in order to reduce the risks to other road users, especially cyclists and pedestrians, these longer HGVs need to be restricted to defined local authority routes. Furthermore, we have also been calling for the participants to be required to use GPS so that the trial can be properly monitored to establish what road types are being used and for how long. 

Given that all the safety, environmental and economic arguments for longer lorries are based on them resulting in fewer but bigger fuller longer semi-trailers, Risk Solutions should be analysing the usage and loading patterns of existing lorries to find out what will happen in real life if these longer semi-trailers are allowed in general circulation. Instead it is using modelled data and planning to scale up the trial figures even though the trial participants are not representative of the haulage industry because the operators involved are self-selecting, the majority of whom are large operations who use specialist drivers.

The reality is only 36 per cent of  existing HGVs on the roads are fully loaded and 30 per cent are travelling around completely empty. Current industry practice is to buy the biggest lorry available and use for all jobs, big or small.

Even load data from the trial fails to support this claim with the trial lorries fully loaded for only a third (37 per cent) of their journeys with the extra length not being used at all for almost half (46%) of their journeys. 

Longer semi-trailers save operators money, up to about 12 per cent of costs, but this is because these bigger trucks result in lorries paying even less of the costs they impose on the economy and society with the taxpayer picking up the bill in terms of more road crashes, road damage, congestion and pollution.

See full details in latest press release and hot topic – September 2018

See previous press release and hot topic for 2017

We have always maintained that, while these LSTs are suitable for the strategic road network, LSTs are totally unsuitable for many urban roads, because of the extended rear tail swing 2 (double that of standard full length 44 tonne trucks) when they perform standard left and right-hand turns. The LSTs will need to use local roads run by local authorities, which make up 98% of roads, to access depots.

The risks arise from the fact, confirmed by the DfT’s own original research in 2011 and the two LST demonstrations we observed, that these longer trailers have a greater tail swing and larger blind spots than existing full length articulated 44 tonne trucks. Many urban roads in the UK are not able to accommodate such large vehicles, forcing them to perform movements that put other, more vulnerable, road users at risk, such as:

  • Mounting kerbs or traffic islands
  • Swinging over kerbs, traffic islands or adjacent lanes
  • Entering adjacent lanes, parking bays or footways

The DfT is not currently restricting where LSTs can go, does not even know which type of roads they are using and for how long. We have therefore been pressing for the trucks in the trial to have GPS so accurate data is available on what urban roads are being used. But the latest Parliamentary answers on December 12th 2016, state that the DfT is going to ask Risk Solutions to model likely roads LSTs are using instead of getting accurate information, which is not acceptable in our view.

The safety analysis should be carried out by road type which have different safety issues  instead of using generalised figures on per mile driven for comparisons between HGVs and LSTs which are not measuring like for like conditions.

1. DfT has extended the trial to a further five years and increased the number of LSTs allowed on our roads from 1,800 to 2,800.

2. Rear tail swing is almost double that of existing full length 44 tonne articulated HGV, up from 1.7m (5.5ft) to 3.3m (10.8ft) for left and right hand turns under normal road conditions. CBT and TAG used modelling software and data collected during a partial demonstration of the new longer vehicle at the Department for Transport testing facility MIRA at Nuneaton, Warwickshire on 14 April to simulate how these longer lorries would perform when undertaking a standard left hand turn.
The LST demonstration in June 2014 showed a similar rear tail swing.

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