Ministers reject megatrucks but stall safer lorry designs for 8 more years

EU transport ministers decided today to delay changes to the weights and dimensions rules for lorry cabins, which would allow safer and more fuel efficient lorries to be produced [1]. Under Franco-Swedish pressure, ministers regrettably agreed to ban the introduction of safer and cleaner lorry cabs from Europe’s roads for at least eight years. In a more positive note, ministers rejected a proposal to allow megatrucks to cross borders.

Current rules on weights and dimensions of lorries indirectly restrict the length of cabins to 2.35m, which explains why European lorries have such blunt cabin fronts. Longer and rounder cabins can save hundreds of lives and billions of litres of diesel per year. 
 
The European Parliament previously voted to allow lorry makers to introduce safer lorries straight away, without forcing them to do so. However, some lorry makers oppose changing the rules in case some manufacturers benefit more, and earlier than others [2]. Transport ministers decided to back lorry makers and block this enabling law for eight years: three years for the law to be transposed into national law and at least five years delay thereafter. The European Parliament, Council and Commission will now have to find a compromise in so-called trilogue negotiations before the final law can be adopted.
 
William Todts, senior policy officer at Transport & Environment, said: “Allowing rounder lorry cabs will not only make Europe’s roads safer, but cleaner too. Extending today’s ban on better cabs is a truly shameful decision because it puts the interests of a few manufacturers above those of everybody else. In the upcoming trilogue negotiations, the Parliament must insist that better lorry cabs are allowed straight away.”
 
Under the agreement, lorry makers would, in about eight years’ time, be given more design space for the cab, allowing a more streamlined nose. Some blind spots could also be eliminated while new design space could also provide for a crumple zone and make sure pedestrians and cyclists are not knocked underneath the wheels in a collision.
 
On the controversial issue of ‘megatrucks’ [2], transport ministers rejected the Commission’s proposal to allow the cross-border use of longer lorries. A blocking minority of governments argued such an allowance could lead to a domino effect, where country after country would be pressured into accepting its neighbour's megatrucks. Members of the European Parliament had previously demanded that the Commission properly assesses the impact of wider megatrucks use and report back to Parliament in 2016 before deciding.
 
“We need better, not bigger lorries. Given the environmental and safety problems we already face with normal-sized lorries, allowing bigger and heavier lorries now would be absurd. With Parliament and Council agreed on megatrucks, they can now focus on making normal lorries safer and cleaner,” Todts concluded.
 
Notes to editors: 
[1] Every year 15% of all fatal collisions in Europe – around 4,200 deaths – involve lorries, according to the European Transport Safety Council. T&E estimates that a more streamlined cab along with rear flaps could also improve fuel efficiency by up to 7-10%, saving hauliers around €3,000 per vehicle per year at today’s diesel prices. While lorries make up only 3% of vehicles, they account for 25% of road transport CO2 emissions in Europe. Their fuel efficiency has barely improved in the last 20 years.
 
 
[3] ‘Megatrucks’ are like road trains, and as long as medium-sized aircraft. The EU’s current rules for international transport say no lorry can be longer than 18.75 metres or have a fully laden weight greater than 40 tonnes.