Are longer lorries on Britain’s roads the answer to a pollution problem? Or are they a disaster waiting to happen? The answer depends on who you ask.  MPs recently backed extended trailers as one solution to cut carbon emissions, and there are currently a fleet of 1800 of them on the UK’s roads.

 

At 15.65m long, larger lorries are two metres longer than the maximum size previously allowed on the road, so each lorry can carry an additional three rows of goods cages or two rows of pallets.  As this maximises the amount each vehicle can carry, it’s hoped fewer lorries will be needed overall and that this will make a significant impact on the country’s carbon emissions if it were to be rolled out permanently across the sector. Although not the only way of tackling the pollution problem, the allowance of extra long semi-trailers on HGVs is one of the cheapest and easiest to undertake, which is why it’s been favoured by the Government.

HGV Drivers' working hours

The findings and recommendations are part of a government report into the opportunities posed by larger HGVs, and has the backing of Ministers. Alongside the report is a five-year trial of larger vehicles by the Department of Transport, which is currently underway and will be extended in January for another five years. By rolling out these vehicles, it’s thought that up to 150,000 fewer journeys will need to be made during the initial five year trial as a result, and that this will save up to 17.8million kilometres being travelled. One in nine journeys is able to be cut by each haulage company on average.

 

The carbon dioxide savings are also impressive, with an estimated 3,000 tonnes of emissions that could be saved over a decade. However, this larger size vehicle has caused concern among campaigners who say that longer lorries actually pose a risk rather than an opportunity. With the UK’s small and often old roads, including tight turns and weak bridges, critics say that the larger vehicles are dangerous and inefficient when it comes to navigating their way off the motorway. Campaigners say they could cause havoc in town centres, posing a hazard for other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

 

Freight on Rail have been particularly critical of the report, saying it ignores these key safety concerns of increased blind spots, more dangerous vehicles, and is based on the flawed assumption that haulage companies will continue to have fewer HGVs on the road simply because their HGVs are larger. It’s argued that HGVs increasing their capacity will not result in fewer HGVs on the road, but in more and more large HGVs as haulage companies adjust their business model and carry more and more goods. It’s the tendency of businesses to expand at every opportunity, and larger HGVs may simply be another way to do that rather than a way to cut emissions. As an industry, the haulage sector is already more than 10,000 drivers short in this country alone, so for each additional long HGV on the road, there would need to be a specially trained driver to drive it.

 

What do you think of the longer HGVs? Would you drive one? And do you think it will help to cut carbon emissions?

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