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European Commission plot to impose mega trucks across Europe

22nd May 2009

Middle-ranking European Commission officials are trying to foist mega trucks1 on Europe by failing to acknowledge fundamental errors in the research they are using to justify mega trucks. Freight on Rail has always argued that in addition to increased emissions and exposure to road accidents, the economic case for mega trucks has not been proven.

Freight on Rail's consultant uncovered fundamental mathematical errors in the European Commission sponsored mega trucks research, which totally undermines the case for mega trucks. The proponents' case is predicated on mega trucks2 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.

The JRC research issued by the Commission on Tuesday 19th May simply repeats all the errors of the TML studies3 with no acknowledgements of any of the criticisms.

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail Campaigner said, "This looks like a European Commission plot to impose mega trucks across Europe using incorrect assumptions and formula to downplay the economic disadvantages of mega trucks as well as the increased safety and environmental costs. The EC's consultants have ignored valid criticisms of their research and refused to clarify further points we raised, effectively stone-walling the opposition to mega trucks. Furthermore they appear to be still basing their approach on tonnes rather than tonne-kilometres which indicates a misunderstanding of the nature of freight demand. This research exercise has not been carried out in a professional, unbiased way."

She concluded that "These basic errors destroy the case for mega trucks as the justification for mega trucks, which the consultants themselves state are individually more dangerous than a standard HGV, relies on a significant reduction in lorry miles, which we have exposed as unfounded. The research also admits that mega trucks would have a detrimental effect on rail freight, the low carbon, energy-efficient alternative. Freight on Rail urges the European Union to promote the use of rail freight rather than using its energies promoting mega trucks. Every tonne that is moved by rail, instead of road, reduces road congestion, road safety risks and carbon dioxide emissions."

Longer heavier lorries 

Notes to editors

For further information contact please contact Philippa Edmunds at Freight on Rail on 020 8241 9982 mobile 07981 881410 email: web site

Members are Direct Rail Services, DB Schenker, Freightliner, ASLEF, RMT, TSSA, UNITE, Rail Freight Group and Campaign for Better Transport

comparitive lengths of vehicles

Directive 96/53 TREN/G3/318/18/2007 examining adapting weights and dimensions of lorries. Research carried out by TM Leuven and JRC for EC. JRC report attached with MTRU's analysis (Freight on Rail's consultants) - MTRU analysis of EC research on mega trucks.

Rail freight produces around four times less carbon dioxide emissions per tonne carried4

An aggregates train can remove 120 HGVs from our roads5

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 mega trucks are using the same flawed arguments again.

The British Government took the lead in rejecting mega trucks6 and listened to the public. However if the EU gives the go-ahead for mega trucks to be used on cross-border traffic across member states, it would mean that mega trucks would be imposed upon the UK over time.

1. Flawed EC sponsored research

a) A fundamental error in the TML research is the calculation of the how many mega trucks are needed to replace the current HGVs. While the carrying capacity is 50% greater, this does not mean that only 50% of the lorries are needed. In fact, a 50% increase in payload means that three HGVs at the current limit could be replaced by two mega trucks - a 33% reduction. GVs at the current limit are replaced by twoHGV The TML report used a 50% reduction figure. TML acknowledged this error and said that they would issue a revision of the research which they have failed to do.

b) Second fundamental error. The consultants assume that mega trucks will run full, even when the HGVs they replace may not have done so and additionally they assume that this will not affect the load factors of the HGVs they replace. This is completely unrealistic.

c) Basing approach on tonnes lifted instead of tonne kilometres shows a misunderstanding of the nature of freight demand which depends on depot location, stockholding, choice of supplier, basic logistics approach. The demand is not tonnes, since to have value or be consumed all tonnes must move. Therefore any results from this analysis are of limited value.

2. Rail is a safer way of distributing freight.

Road accidents cost the UK £19Billion in 2007

The European Commission's own research in Jan 2009 stated that mega trucks are individually more dangerous than standard HGVs. On motorways, HGVs are over three times as likely as cars to be involved in fatalities from road accidents per billion kms travelled. DfT Transport Statistics Traffic Speeds Figure 3.5C for 2007 issued July 2008

3. Transport Research Laboratories Research indicates that there is a direct conflict between manoeuvrability at slow speeds and preventing snaking of double articulated mega trucks at cruising speeds which the EC has chosen to ignore.

4. Road haulage industry has a poor record in complying with existing road regulations

Despite the fact that we highlighted this omission in April 08, it appears that no study has been undertaken to investigate lack of compliance with existing road regulations by HGVs which puts other road users at extra risk.

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. Mega trucks 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. Mega trucks 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.

6. Even existing 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. When bridges were strengthened to cater for 40 and 44 tonne lorries, it was the UK taxpayer who funded the work and it is not stated who would pay for all the changes needed for mega trucks, such as bridge strengthening, access ramps, slip roads, parking, refuelling and rest areas.

7. The load factor assumptions for mega trucks appear over-optimistic based on previous evidence.


1. Mega trucks would be 25.5 metres long and 60 tonnes in weight
2. Mega trucks would be fifty per cent longer and a third heavier than existing trucks
3. TML sponsored EC consultants on mega trucks
4. DfT Logistics Perspective Dec 08 Rail produces around 0.05 kg of CO2 per tonne carried compared to around 0.17 kg per tonne carried for road
5. Network Rail 2008
6. RT Hon Ruth Kelly MP Secretary of State for Transport announcement to House of Commons 3rd June 2008

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