Roads and logistics minister Mike Penning has again stated that longer and heavier vehicles, such as European Modular System (EMS) 25.25m rigs, will not be permitted on the UK’s roads “for the foreseeable future”.
His underlining of current UK government policy came in the form of a response to a question from Labour’s shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle. Penning also stressed that cross-border operations of these vehicles is not permitted under European law. According to the RHA’s policy team, this is in line with the view of the European Parliament but appears to conflict sharply with the latest opinion coming out of the European Commission. Despite much of northern Europe adopting EMS, both this and the last government has repeatedly dismissed, what they provocatively term, “mega trucks”.
The sad passing of longer heavier vehicle (LHV) champion, Stan Robinson, has brought his, and the vision of industry colleague Dick Denby, back into my focus. Both men were passionate about the idea of running trucks in the UK that would effectively carry over 30% more volume and weight than the conventional 44-tonne 3+3 artic. While Stan’s idea was based on the showman’s road train principle – actually legal if you are a fairground ride operator – Dick’s was pretty much modelled on a 60-tonne version the EU approved EMS.
Industry colleagues say farewell to Stan Robinson in the June edition of ROADWAY Magazine. The ROADWAY Magazine app for iPad can be downloaded free from the App Store: http://bit.ly/JRmnzm
Also in the June edition is a 16-page industry ‘Diamond Jubilee’ tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Returning to the topic of LHVs, the current situation in Northern Europe – cross border legality contradictions aside – is in theory you could run a 25.25-metre rig through Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium in the very near future. While fully legal in Sweden, the other four countries are permitting, or will permit, these LHVs on selected routes as part of long-term trials.
In Sweden they get over the cross border problem, by loading the conventional 13.6-metre semi-trailer part of the 25.25m rig for the international part of the journey and put a load for domestic delivery on the 26-tonne rigid that pulls the combination. They leave the trailer dolly at the ferry terminal in readiness for the return leg and send the trailer across unaccompanied. The 26-tonner either picks up a returning trailer or goes about its business alone. The trailer is either met by one of the operator’s own tractor units on the other side or the international delivery is subbed out to a partner haulier. Simples!
In the UK we, as is normally the case in this inhibited land of ours, get a compromise. This involves a longer 15.65m trailer that can carry an additional four pallets.
The Department for Transport will argue that following a comprehensive study into LHVs and input from the relevant industry trade bodies, the message that there is no appetite, place or business case for 25.25m trucks in Britain is clear. They will say there is a business case for longer semi trailers and we have a trial to establish just this. Licences for these were oversubscribed and 66% of them went to RHA member companies.
There is then a large appetite for something bigger than we currently have.
Well I have two words to sum up the UK’s compromise to longer heavier vehicles…Red Herring. It is my view that our government’s objection to the EMS is purely political. It is their fear of the J-word and what that means to a government’s chance of being re-elected. The voters won’t notice an extra six feet tacked on the back of a tri-axle trailer. They will notice two trucks attached in the middle with a twin axle dolly. And what would the press say, once Lord Levison stops our politicians trying to manipulate it? Or is it the other way around?
Well it is what it is for the foreseeable future, unless another visionary like Stan Robinson joins with the likes of Dick Denby and pushes vigorously for the only common sense approach to the future of the efficient carriage of goods by road.
If the majority of Western Europe gets its act together in the next couple of years and EMS commercial vehicles become the norm, there will be egg on the UK’s competitive face, again.
And a recent conversation I had with Europe’s biggest haulier, Norbert Dentressangle, revealed that it is equally frustrated with the French government’s approach to 25.25m 60-tonne trucks. It operates three as part of the trial in the Netherlands and says the operation they service is 30% more efficient, and eco friendly, than it was.