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Longer lorries would be even more dangerous than Government admits
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Picture highlighting the proposed increase of two metres - see also press release

DfT proposal to allow longer HGVs is bad for road safety, pollution & road congestion

  • Government’s proposal and consultation to increase lorry trailers by up to almost 7 feet (2.05 metres), has fundamental safety, economic and environmental flaws and will not meet its own stated objectives to reduce road congestion and pollution. Please do respond to the DfT consultation which closes on Tuesday 21st June. I have prepared the following bullets and attached detailed briefing.
  • DfT research admits that longer HGVs will be individually less safe than existing ones and be more susceptible to crosswinds and tail swings. However, it claims that this will be cancelled out overall by fewer lorries, which we dispute.
  • Longer HGVs  will be more dangerous than DfT research admits
    DfT research underestimates the extent to which longer vehicles will be individually more dangerous. In particular, it does not examine that the longer trailer will significantly increase the driver’s blind spot and more than double the tail swing to over 2 metres on right and left hand turns in urban areas. This is particularly dangerous for all other road users, who may get side swiped, as it will not be obvious how the back of the lorry will swing out into another lane. Lorries are also likely to get stuck half way through a manoeuvre. At cruising speeds there is an increased danger of snaking; the longer length will also make it harder to achieve the right load distribution which affects the handling of the vehicle. 
  • Same flawed justification for increasing lorry sizes being used again
    The Government's justification is that there will be fewer bigger ones and that there will be a reduction in congestion and pollution and exposure to accidents as a result of this. This is the same argument used each time increased lorry dimensions are allowed but the reality is that bigger lorries drive around partially loaded. Since the last increases in dimensions there is no direct evidence of larger or heavier lorries leading to improvements in average payloads or a reduction in empty running with one in four HGVs driving around empty 1.
  • Challenging the volume constraint argument for longer lorries
    The current argument for this length increase is that some loads are volume constrained (42% according to DfT figures) but that is because weight limits were increased from 40 to 44 tonnes in 2001. Same DfT research also shows that almost half of loads are neither volume or weight constrained ie partially loaded. If you increase the volume you will hit new weight limits, so you have a see-saw between length and weight increases as it is difficult to optimize for both weight and volume.
  • The Freight Transport Association, which represents the big operators, is  lobbying for a weight increase to 46 tonnes  which both undermines the volume constrained argument for the longer trailer and demonstrates that the industry goes on asking for bigger heavier HGVs.
  • Longer trailers will add to road traffic and road congestion
    Were the correct economic assumptions used with proper consideration given to congestion implications,  longer trailers would be shown to cause additional carbon dioxide emissions, more road freight tonne miles, more road congestion and more road accidents, the reverse of what is being claimed would happen.
  • Instead of increasing road safety risks associated with longer trailers the Government should improve enforcement of existing road safety regulations
  • Longer trailers would become the default HGV in the same way that the 44 tonne 16.5 metre HGV, which now has 70% of the HGV market,  is used irrespective of load sizes. 
  • The industry is divided on the merits of longer trailers
    Certain logistics operators and users will undoubtedly be able to make use of the extra volume and will be able therefore to increase their efficiency (typically big logistics operators tied to supermarket logistics), and these are the “winners” whose voices are being heard by DfT and are driving this, but the vast bulk of freight operators and users are not big companies or big hauliers, and these will lose out by having to buy and run new longer vehicles for general use, mostly not utilizing the extra capacity.
  • Longer trailers would undermine low carbon energy-efficient rail, particularly the emerging supermarket (domestic intermodal) rail traffic, the sector with the highest growth potential of up to 12 times in a 25 year period 2.
  • Instead of having larger HGVs make existing road haulage more efficient.
    Lorry road user charging has meant that empty running in Germany has reduced by over 20% in the past decade.


See detailed briefing.  Please do get in touch if you want any more advice or have any comments.  

The consultation document and impact assessment can be found on the DfT website at:

The research report can be found at:

1. DfT figures
CSRGT MTRU report P8 Figure 1C.
2. Network Rail The Value of Rail Freight July 2010 Domestic intermodal growth highest forecast 1200% in  tonne km between 2006/07 and 2031

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