New studies cast more doubt on ‘mega-trucks’

June 15, 2009

The introduction of longer and heavier lorries on European roads would lead to an increase in CO2 emissions from freight transport according to a new study by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.

The findings appear to contradict a European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) report published last month that contains a summary concluding that legalising 60-tonne, 25m-long lorry combinations is justified in the EU on environmental and economic grounds. But despite the wording of the summary, the Commission research actually found that there would be no significant environmental impact, positive or negative from the introduction of mega-trucks, leading to accusations of ‘greenwash’.

T&E policy officer Nina Renshaw said: ‘Mega-trucks have always been promoted first and foremost as a much greener option, which has seduced policy-makers into believing there could be a quick fix for road freight transport emissions. It is clear that the environmental case does not support these claims. Despite the greenwashing in the summary, even the deeply-flawed JRC study does not say that mega-trucks are good for the environment.’

Longer and heavier lorries are known to be more dangerous and more polluting per vehicle, but the thinking that has governed industry and previous Commission studies is that the overall number of trucks would go down as larger vehicles would lead to lower numbers overall.

Several environmental and transport groups have warned the Commission about the failures of this assumption.
Renshaw said: ‘As the Fraunhofer study shows, any short-term benefits would be wiped out within five to ten years by an overall increase in road freight transport.’

The Fraunhofer study says the effects would include an additional two million tonnes of CO2 emissions from freight transport every year, and a shift of approximately 30% of freight transport from rail to road. It concludes that ‘the introduction of mega-trucks will most likely end up in a negative climate gas balance in the medium term’ and rejects the introduction of longer and heavier road freight vehicles for being incompatible with climate protection policy.

Renshaw said: ‘The Commission needs to be clear on what it hopes to achieve. If it is a dramatic reduction in the cost of road freight, that comes at the price of more CO2; that is not an option. If the aim is genuinely more efficient, cleaner and safer freight transport, there are numerous smarter measures available, such as road pricing schemes and improving the fuel-efficiency of lorries, which has hardly improved in recent years.’

Download the Fraunhofer report

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