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Flawed European Commission research being used to justify Mega trucks

Mega Trucks


Despite the fact that Freight on Rail highlighted 2 significant errors in the EU sponsored research into mega trucks four months ago, one of the errors has still not been corrected and is being used to justify further research and is still on the Commission web site.

Why this second error is important is that it renders the arguments for mega trucks unsound as the second error, when corrected, shows that LHVs would lead to increased vehicle kilometres, which undermines the whole basis for justifying the environmental, safety and economic case for mega trucks.  (See details of error at bottom)

Middle-ranking European Commission officials are trying to foist mega trucks on Europe by failing to acknowledge a fundamental error in its research and rehashing their faulty unsound research, which totally distorts the argument in favour of mega trucks.

The proponents’ case is predicated on mega trucks which would be fifty per cent longer and a third heavier than existing trucks, delivering a significant reduction in vehicle kilometres, proved by Freight on Rail to be incorrectly calculated. The assumptions for safety and environmental improvement depend entirely on the prediction of a dramatic reduction in vehicles kilometres which are derived from their incorrect calculations.

Freight on Rail recognises that road and rail complement each other but large quantities of long distance freight can be more sustainably and more safely carried by rail than in even larger lorries.

Freight on Rail believes that these massive lorries would have terrible economic, environmental and safety implications and have no place on UK roads for a number of key reasons. However, despite the fact that the UK Government rejected trials in June 2008, if Europe gives the go-ahead for cross border traffic these mega trucks will come to the UK by default.

1. Previous increases in lorry dimensions have resulted in more lorries driving around less full, causing more road congestion and more pollution, which is the reverse of what was claimed would happen. The proponents of LHVs are using the same flawed arguments again.

2. LHVs would destroy the majority of rail freight which has a much better environmental and safety record than road and force trainloads of freight back onto our congested roads.In the UK it would destroy the entire intermodal market (ie containers) and 50% of bulk traffic would go to road. EU research admits that mega trucks would have a detrimental effect on rail freight, the low carbon, energy-efficient alternative.  
3. LHVs have dangers of their own due to their size and lack of manoeuvrability
The European Commission's own research in Jan 2009 stated that mega trucks are individually more dangerous than standard HGVs. – TML Effects of adapting the rules on weights and dimentions of heavy commercial vehicles as established within directirve 96/53/EC P14 penultimate line 6 November 2008 on DGTREN website

On motorways, existing HGVs are over three times as likely as cars to be involved in fatalities from road accidents per billion kms travelled.
Source: DfT Transport Statistics Traffic Speeds Figure 3.5C for 2007 issued July 2008

4. Road haulage industry has a poor record in complying with existing road regulations
Over 82% of HGVs exceeded their speed limit of 50 mph on dual carriageways and almost three-quarters exceeded the 40 mph limit on single carriageway non-built up roads in 2007.
VOSA spot checks in October 2008 found that half of UK registered HGVs stopped were breaking the law. International Freighting Weekly  21st October 2008.

5. Longer heavier lorries will have minimal impact on road congestion whereas an average freight train which is designed for heavy and bulky cargoes, can remove 50 HGVs from our roads. Source Network Rail 2008.

6. Trying to restrict LHVs to dual-carriageways and motorways simply will not work
The promoters are claiming that these vehicles will be restricted to motorways, dual carriageways and major roads, but there is no mechanism available to keep them to this and the type of road has not been fully clarified. The reality is that these vehicles will need local access to distribution hubs which would not be on motorways/dual carriageways, but on roads which are totally unsuitable for vehicles of this scale.

7. HGVs are up to 160,000 times more damaging to road surfaces than the average car; some of the heaviest road repair costs are therefore almost exclusively attributable to the heaviest vehicles. 

8. The claimed environmental benefits of LHVs rely on very high levels of load utilisation – in excess of that routinely achieved within the haulage sector.  Therefore at lower levels of utilisation the environmental performance of LHVs would be worse. German trials showed that utilisation of above 77% for LHVs was needed for fuel costs to breakeven. In 2006 in the UK HGVs over 33 tonnes were only 73% full. Source Umwelt Bundes Amt August  07  and UK
CSRGT 2006

9. Lower road haulage costs will increase lorry miles with LHVs becoming travelling warehouses.
LHVs would mean more lorry-miles not fewer because demand will be stimulated as LHVs could reduce road haulage costs by up to 20% according to the freight industry. Distribution centres are likely to be rationalised, saving on real estate costs, with lorry tonne kilometres increasing in line with current trends.

TML error
However the second error, which still exists in the TML research, (even though it has been acknowledged by TML) when corrected, shows that it would no longer be correct to state that LHVs would lead to less vehicle kms as this method shows that in the preferred scenario unlimited LHV use will end up to 6% more vehicle kms. In method 2 the consultants assumed that mega trucks will run full, even when the HGVs they replace may not have done so and additionally they assumed that this will not affect the load factors of the HGVs they replace which is completely unrealistic.

Why this second error is important is that it renders the assertions in the Terms of reference for the forthcoming EC research unsound because it is misleading to state that the TML research shows an overall conclusion in favour of certain increases in size and weight.

For more information on the campaign against LHVs and lists of candidates for the European Election go to the Freight on Rail website; or ring Philippa Edmunds on 020 8241992 or email; mobile 07981 881410


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