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Freight on Rail welcomes the statement today by the Secretary of State for Transport, The Rt. Hon Ruth Kelly that she is not convinced by the arguments for 60 tonne 25.5 metre lorries - April 22nd 2008

Briefing: No to longer heavier lorries (LHVs)

60 tonne 25.5 metre lorries
Photo during German trials  - Allianz Pro Schiene/ Kraufmann

The Government is reviewing whether to allow 60-tonne 25.5 metre lorries and the TRL/Heriot-Watt report it commissioned is due to be published soon. Freight on Rail believes that best environmental, congestion and safety benefits can be gained by transferring freight to rail; however  the proposal to introduce LHVs would mean more lorries, more pollution and more road congestion and severe decline of sustainable freight alternatives at a time when fuel prices and sources are uncertain and the UK has to meet targets on carbon emissions.

Rail can offer a real alternative in many markets
The easiest way to achieve carbon reduction, reduce congestion and improve safety is by encouraging more goods to transfer to rail. The rail industry offers high service standards enabling a real choice of modes particularly on long distance trunk hauls. Road and rail modes can complement each other but trunk movements of large quantities of freight can be more sustainably carried by rail rather than ever larger lorries.

Freight on Rail believes that sanctioning trials of longer heavier lorries (LHVs) would be wrong for the following reasons:-

LHVs will mean more lorries and more pollution as previous increases in lorry dimensions have lead to an increase in Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) driving around less full, which is the absolute reverse of what was claimed would happen. Since the last increase in maximum weights, average vehicle occupancy has been going down and over a quarter of lorries are driving around empty.  In  2005 27.4% of lorries were driving around empty whereas it was 26.4% in 2001.(see MTRU updated report Feb 2008 Heavier lorries and their impacts on economy and environment on Freight on Rail website

Following the two years trials, German Transport Ministers voted in Nov 2007 against LHVs largely on safety grounds.

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

Rebound effect
In the absence of lorry user charging to internalise all the costs of road freight transport to society,   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 with LHVs in effect becoming travelling warehouses.

LHVs have dangers of their own due to their size and lack of manoeuvrability
DfT research showed that because of their size and weight, when HGVs are involved in accidents the level of injury tends to be higher. The same research found that HGVs were twice as likely to be involved in fatal accidents as cars. Focus on Freight December 2006 chart 5.2b Deaths/KSIs in accidents involving HGVs per million km travelled
There are concerns about braking distances and visibility, especially for left hand drive vehicles where side swipes from left hand drive lorries cause serious accidents on average every other day on UK roads according to the ITV programme Killer Lorries 31st March 2008. Manoeuvrability, especially on motorway roundabouts and reversing and overtaking especially in emergency situations can be problematic for HGVs and would be even more difficult for LHVs. Even bendy buses, which are 18 metres long, cause more than twice as many injuries as any other bus. Source Evening Standard June 7th 2007

Stability of LHVs
We question the stability of these double trailer vehicles. The take up of draw bar vehicles in the UK has not been significant because of stability issues on motorways. In 2006, 532 HGVs overturned which is almost one and half HGVs per day. In the same period only 10 buses/coaches  overturned. In 2006, 144 HGVs jack-knifed, of which articulated ones accounted for 125.

Public Opinion
NOP poll in August 2007 found that 75% of people opposed LHVs and 80% wanted more rail freight instead.

Government estimates that road-related deaths and serious injuries cost economy £3bn per annum - Inside Government April 2008

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 road. Source Network Rail 2007.

LHVs will undermine rail freight which has a much better environmental record than road
Remember per tonne carried rail produces between three and five times less carbon emissions than the same tonne being moved on the roads, depending on type of cargo. Energy efficiency is directly related to carbon dioxide emissions and rail is significantly more energy efficient than road. Rail freight is also up to fifteen times better than road in terms of other noxious emissions.

LHVs would undermine container and bulk rail freight; Freightliner found that up to 66% of container traffic could be forced back onto the roads. Detailed examination of rail’s bulk freight flows by EWS in May 2007 found that up to 40% of aggregates currently carried by rail could switch to road and almost 20% of metals traffic.

Road haulage industry has a poor record in complying 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. For example on major non built up single carriage roads a staggering 76 per cent of articulated HGVs exceeded their 40 mph limit by 6mph on average, with 28 per cent exceeding the limit by more than 10 mph in 2005. Source Vehicle speeds GB 2006. This clearly has safety implications for other road users and puts them at risk.

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. We are concerned – as happened with a previous concession of 44 tonne vehicles to railheads only – that the restriction proposed will not be enforced or enforceable.

Unlike other European countries, the UK allows all vehicles to operate on any road and at any time unless specifically prohibited from doing so. As a result, we will get these very large vehicles travelling down local roads that are wholly unsuitable for the purpose, with consequent intrusion, noise and road damage and safety implications. Where would drivers stop to take statutory breaks and would existing break areas be big enough for LHVs? 

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.  A 60 tonne lorry would be 4.7 times more damaging than a 44 tonne lorry on a suspension bridge. Professor R A Smith Imperial College.

The damageto underground structures (including gas and water mains, electricity and telecommunications) caused by existing HGVs has yet to be quantified and the same is the case for the noise pollution that would be associated with even larger vehicles.

Philippa Edmunds Campaigner is available for comments on 020 8241 9982 mobile 07981 881410 email; web

Freight on Rail is a partnership of many organisations promoting the economic and environmental benefits of rail freight

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