• EU governments agree cleaner, safer lorries – but Commission must drive improvements

    Representatives of EU governments today accepted a deal with the European Parliament to end brick-shaped lorries, clearing the way for advances in fuel efficiency and safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. The agreed law allows lorrymakers to produce new designs but industry lobbyists secured a ban until 2022 even though the new designs are voluntary, not mandatory [1]. The Commission will propose new safety requirements for trucks by amending its vehicle safety regulations by 2016.

    The design changes would allow European lorries to have slightly longer, more aerodynamic cabins than the current box-shaped ones, which are restricted to 2.35m in length. The new designs would improve protection for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as crash performance and the driver’s field of vision, which could be increased 50%. Before new designs can hit the road, the Commission must first develop the specific safety rules. A proposal for this has been announced for 2016.   
    William Todts of Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “This deal brings closer the day when truckmakers stop producing the dangerous and inefficient brick-shaped lorries. But how much safer lorries will really be and when they’ll be allowed all depends on a new law that is still in the drafting stage. The Commission should now press ahead and present ambitious truck safety rules by 2016 at the latest. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that we really cannot afford to delay on.” 
    The European Commission originally proposed that lorrymakers would be free to introduce the new designs by 2017. MEPs supported this stance but EU governments were persuaded to push for a ban until 2025 by manufacturers eager to delay any disruption of the “competitive balance” between them. In trilogue negotiations, the Parliament managed to reduce the delay to 2022, although the exact timing remains uncertain and depends on when the new safety rules will be agreed.
    William Todts added: “Just weeks after the Commission announced a probe into lorry industry price fixing, it’s absurd that governments meet truckmakers’ demand to ban innovation for as long as possible. In an industry that sorely needs more competition, especially on fuel efficiency, Europe should now follow the US example and set ambitious fuel efficiency standards for lorries.”
    Every year 15% of all fatal collisions in Europe – around 4,200 deaths – involve lorries, according to the European Transport Safety Council. That makes lorries twice as deadly as cars. According to a new European Commission study, life-saving design changes to lorry cabs can save up to 900 lives every year [2]. In a separate declaration the Commission has said it will propose amendments to its vehicle safety regulations in 2016 to develop new safety requirements for trucks.
    While lorries make up only 3% of vehicles, they account for 25% of road transport CO2 emissions in Europe. Their fuel efficiency has stagnated for the last 20 years and, contrary to cars or vans, the EU has not set fuel economy standards for trucks. 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.
    The agreement now needs to be ratified by the plenary of the European Parliament.
    Note to editors:
    [1] The specific safety rules for new truck designs need to be developed in a separate vehicle safety legislation (Regulation 661/2009). A proposal to amend this law will be made by 2016. After the safety rules have been agreed (ca. 1.5-2 years co-decision, 1.5-2 years implementation, so around 2019-2020), a 3-year moratorium kicks in.

    2015             Formal adoption of new lorry dimension rules

    2016             Commission proposal to develop safety rules for redesigned lorries

    2019-2020    Finalisation of safety rules (co-decision + implementation)

    2021-2022    End of 3-year moratorium – safer lorries allowed

    [2] TRL 2014, Draft Project Report, Benefit and Feasibility of a Range of New Technologies and Unregulated Measures in the fields of Vehicle Occupant Safety and Protection of Vulnerable Road Users, 90. Summary available at https://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/newsroom/cf/itemdetail.cfm?item_id=7803