• Commission backs away from allowing megatrucks

    The European Commissioner’s top transport official appeared to back away from plans to allow megatrucks to travel freely across European national borders at a stormy meeting yesterday afternoon of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee.  Transport & Environment says the EU should scrap plans to boost longer and heavier lorries, and instead propose changes that would allow future lorries to be more aerodynamic and safer but without changing the length or weight of the load space. 

    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. But the road industry is pushing for 25-metre megatrucks to be allowed to cross the continent. The rules on lorry weights and dimensions allow megatrucks under certain conditions, but only within the borders of Member States.  As recently as 2010, the Commission confirmed that cross-border use of megatrucks is against EU rules and any change would require consultation with the Parliament and Member States.

    The Commission has been working on a change in the legal interpretation of the rules to the effect of allowing megatrucks to cross borders if two Member States agree.  European Commissioner for Transport Siim Kallas was due to announce the re-interpretation at the International Road Transport Union conference on 29 February. But he withdrew his announcement following angry reactions from MEPs, member states and NGOs.

    Kallas faced an angry response from MEPs at yesterday afternoon’s meeting of the European Parliament’s transport committee.  He was berated by MEPs from across the political spectrum for attempting to rewrite EU law without consulting elected representatives.  He responded by saying that proposing new rules through the usual ‘co-decision’ process would have been too ‘emotional’ and would take too long.  “That’s democracy,” was the response of one MEP.  Kallas now says he has to ‘reflect’ on the next steps.  When pressed to clarify his position, he said “I need to think”.

    William Todts, of Transport & Environment said:

    “Allowing megatrucks to cross-borders will open the floodgates to longer and heavier trucks becoming the norm across Europe.  It’s the wrong idea, and its botched launch is a reflection of how poorly these changes have been thought through.”

    “If the Commission wants a smarter, safer, greener road transport industry in Europe it should propose a law that would allow for longer, more aerodynamic and safer cabs without increasing the weight and length of the load space.  Any changes should be proposed through the proper legal and democratic process; not on the whim of one Commissioner.”