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Oppose longer lorries which could be more dangerous than existing ones – contact your MP

DfT announced plans to consider allowing the length of lorries to increase by up to 7 feet (2.05 metres) on UK roads last month which could have lower safety standards than existing HGVs would put lorry industry interests ahead of road safety and carbon reduction. 

Write to /email your local MP to tell them what you think of these plans as this is a consultation and the road haulage industry is divided on the issue as it could be damaging to medium and smaller operators who will find it difficult to compete with the big operators. This length increase won’t be the end of it as already we are seeing demands for even heavier as well as longer lorries. Freight Transport Association (FTA) is keenly supporting the increased length and is pushing for a weight increase now too. The DfT report down-plays safety implications which include more susceptibility to crosswinds & greater tail swings. The research states that new active steering technology due out in 18th months time would make vehicles safer  but states that it does not favour mandating this technology.

1. Reality is that it is a 7 foot increase in lorry length
44 tonne 16.50 metre HGV is the UK work horse so even though the Government says that the increase of 7 feet (2.05 metres) is within the existing permitted lengths which is technically true, the reality is that the draw-bar operation, a similar in length to the proposed longer trailer, represent  less than 2% of the UK fleet.

2. Proponents of longer lorries using the same flawed arguments again
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 longer trailers are using the same flawed arguments again.The claimed environmental benefits of longer trailers would 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 longer trailers could be worse as the vehicles will not only be heavier, and will therefore be able to carry less weight, but will use more fuel. Since the last increases in dimensions there is no direct evidence of larger or heavier lorries leading to reductions in the number of HGVs or total HGV traffic measured as vehicle kilometers.(MTRU report, p8/9,  figure 6).

3. Instead of having larger HGVs make existing road haulage more efficient.
More than one in four lorries is driving around empty. Empty running of lorries reached 29% in 2008 and was 28% in 2009 (DfT figures CSRGT MTRU report P8 Figure 1C) The Government should look at improving efficiency of existing sized HGVs, instead of increasing lorry lengths. The justification used for this length increase is that some loads are volume constrained. However, the majority of cargos weigh out before bulking out and this proposed longer and thus heavier trailer, will be able to carry even less weight than an existing HGV.  So you get perpetual oscillation between length and weight increases as it is impossible to optimize for both.

Between 2005 and 2009, German Maut Lorry Road user Charging system has resulted in empty running being reduced by 11% to below 20%;increase in loaded runs of 2.1% and increase in rail freight of 7%.

4. Hauliers tend to buy the largest vehicle permitted and use it for large and small loads irrespective of the impact on efficiency and consolidation.
(MTRU report Nov 2010 Figure 3 P6 Source TSGB 2009).

5. Lower road haulage costs will increase lorry miles with longer lorries becoming travelling warehouses. Longer trucks would mean more lorry-miles not fewer because demand will be stimulated as they could reduce road haulage costs by up to 13%. Distribution centres are likely to be rationalised, saving on real estate costs, with lorry tonne kilometres increasing as the same freight is carried further.  

6. Road safety
Before even considering exposing other road users to the increased risks associated with longer trailers, which include  more susceptibility to crosswinds & greater tail swings, the road haulage industry should comply with existing road regulations
Many HGVs are not following existing road regulations, ranging from exceeding speed, weight and driving hours limits, thus putting the public at extra risk .

  • Existing HGVs are over three times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than cars on major roads due to a combination of size, lack of proper enforcement of drivers' hours, vehicle overloading and differing foreign operating standards (Road Statistics 2008, Tables 3.2 and 3.6, Road Freight Statistics 2008 Section 5, both UK Department for Transport)
  • Over 83 per cent of HGVs exceeded the 50 mph speed limit on dual carriageway non-built-up roads and 75 per cent exceeded the 40 mph limit on single carriageway non-built-up roads (DfT, Road traffic speed congestion, June 2010)
  • The Mayor of London is phasing out the bendy bus at considerable public expense, which at 18 metres are a similar length to the proposed longer trailer, as they caused more than twice as many injuries as other buses (Evening Standard June 7th 2007)

7. Longer trailers would have little impact on road congestion and would undermine low carbon energy-efficient rail, particularly the emerging supermarket rail traffic.

  • Rail freight produces 70 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than the equivalent road journey (DfT, Logistics Perspective, December 2008, p8 section 10)
  • A tonne of goods can travel 246 miles by rail as opposed to 88 miles by road on a gallon of fuel (Network Rail, Value of Freight, July 2010)
  • An average freight train can remove 50 long distance HGVs and an aggregates train can remove up to 160 long distance HGVs from our roads. (Network Rail 2010)

The UK Government’s plan to increase lorry trailer lengths, which will lead to more long distance lorries journeys, is in stark contrast to the European Commission view that which acknowledges that Europe needs to take action to reduce freight’s carbon dioxide emissions and transfer 50 per cent of long distance freight to rail and water by 2050 to achieve this.
EU Transport White Paper Monday 28th March  

See link to MTRU report on Heavier lorries and their impact on the economy and the environment updated November 2010 at


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