MEPs put brakes on EU mega trucks plans
Although far from perfect, the new rules on truck dimensions will certainly make Europe's roads safer, writes Keith Taylor.
The European parliament last week voted to approve safer roads in Europe. As a member of parliament's transport committee and the MEP within the Greens/EFA group working on this file, I welcomed the final legislation which will provide for safer lorry cab design under new rules on truck weights and dimensions.
We recognised the potential benefits to both road safety and fuel efficiency if existing laws on the dimensions and weights of lorries could be changed.
Although the new rules on truck dimensions are far from perfect, they will certainly make our roads safer and are a major improvement based on what was initially proposed by the European commission, both from an environmental and road safety perspective.
With reduced blind spots and underrun protection systems (a device which prevents pedestrians, cyclists and passenger cars from getting wedged under the truck's front) and with improved health and safety within cabs, these measures will save lives on the roads; notably those of cyclists.
However as Greens we felt that stronger proposals which were on the table earlier have been considerably watered down. We had hoped for more far reaching improvements, such as the inclusion of direct vision of the passenger side both through the windscreen and through the side door window.
Furthermore, it is disappointing that such vital design changes can only be applied as of 2021.
The long wait seems unnecessary and reflects the unreasonable demands of the big truck manufacturing industry, which lobbied hard to maintain a ban on the introduction of new, safer and more energy efficient cab design for trucks.
Bearing in mind that so many fatal accidents for cyclists and pedestrians involve trucks - nine out of 16 fatal cycling accidents in London last year involved trucks - it is outrageous that the industry did everything in their power to delay the voluntary introduction of better and safer cab designs.
"Bearing in mind that so many fatal accidents for cyclists and pedestrians involve trucks - nine out of 16 fatal cycling accidents in London last year involved trucks - it is outrageous that the industry did everything in their power to delay the voluntary introduction of better and safer cab designs"
I am convinced that in this area faster and legally binding progress is clearly necessary to save lives.
On the other hand, we are particularly pleased that the move by the commission to use this review to legalise the cross-border movements of controversial mega trucks or gigaliners was thwarted.
In the EU, over four thousand people lost their lives in collisions involving heavy goods vehicles in 2011. The introduction of gigaliners, even bigger and heavier American type lorries of up to 25m length and up to 60 tonnes weight, would have raised major road safety concerns, particularly with regard to much higher risks of heavier accidents in collision with light vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.
Giving gigaliners the green light throughout Europe, especially in densely populated areas with high traffic volumes, would have had devastating effects not only for road safety, but also for infrastructure investment costs.
This would have counteracted all the good effort being made for a more sustainable and efficient use of transport modes so we’re pleased that gigaliners were overwhelmingly rejected.
The commission can review the question of cross-border circulation in the future and we need to be vigilant to ensure that the college does not try to force this change through again.
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But policy incentives to take account of its environmental benefits are needed for the market to accelerate, argues Trevor Morgan.
EU legislation needs to recognise the advantages lightweight materials can offer in reducing CO2 emissions from vehicles, write Patrik Ragnarsson and Dieter Höll.