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)
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
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 www.freightonrail.org.uk/pressreleases
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
LHVs have dangers of their own due to their size and lack of manoeuvrability
Stability of LHVs
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
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
Trying to restrict LHVs to dual-carriageways and motorways simply will not work
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.