• EU Parliament vote marks end of the brick-shaped lorry

    The European Parliament’s transport committee today voted to change rules for lorry cabins that could save hundreds of lives and reduce fuel consumption and emissions. The committee voted to give lorry manufacturers more design space for the front end, allowing a more streamlined nose and ending the era of Europe’s characteristically brick-shaped lorries.

    Parliament decided that some of the extra cab space has to be used to get rid of blind spots, include a crumple zone and to make sure pedestrians and cyclists are not knocked underneath the wheels in a collision. Lorry makers will have the possibility to improve designs straight away but Parliament wants these life-saving features to become mandatory for all new lorries by 2022.

    The new design flexibility will enable lorry makers to implement fuel-efficient measures such as better aerodynamics, which will make lorries cheaper to run and cut climate-changing emissions. For the first time, Parliament also called for the introduction of fuel efficiency standards for lorries.

    On the controversial issue of ‘megatrucks’ [1], MEPs rejected the Commission’s proposal to allow the cross-border use of longer lorries. Instead, MEPs demand that the Commission properly assesses the impact of wider megatrucks use and report back to Parliament in 2016.

    William Todts, clean vehicles officer at Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “Today is a good day for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, hauliers and the environment. This vote brings the end of the brick-shaped cab closer. It’s a key decision that will reduce road deaths and kick-start progress on lorry CO2 emissions after 20 years of stagnation.”

    The current EU law on lorry dimensions forces cabins to be shaped like a brick, which as well as being dangerous, is also inefficient. This hampers progress in fuel efficiency and safety. A rounder lorry front along with rear flaps could improve fuel economy by up to 7-10%, which at today’s diesel prices would save hauliers approx. €3,000 per vehicle per year [2].

    In contrast to cars and vans, lorries’ environmental performance has stagnated over the last 20 years. Whilst  only  three  percent  of vehicles,  lorries  account for  a quarter  of Europe’s road transport emissions. That share is expected to grow as traffic increases further. Lorries also have a dreadful safety record: every year 15% of all fatal collisions – around 4,200 deaths – involve lorries.

    This Parliament decision needs to be approved by the 28 EU member states before it can become law. Member States are under intense industry pressure to block the life-saving redesign. Lorry makers are lobbying for new designs to be prohibited until 2025 to safeguard what they call ‘competitive neutrality’. They also reject additional safety requirements such as improved direct vision.

    “Giving lorry makers extra cab space in return for life-saving and fuel-efficient features is a no-brainer. Europe’s governments shouldn’t let vested interests trump common sense”, William Todts concluded.

    Today’s vote needs to be confirmed by the plenary of the European Parliament this April before the draft law can be considered by EU member states.

    Six weeks ago, a coalition of 130 cities, trade unions, cyclists’ organisations, hauliers’ associations, retailers, green and safety campaigners asked MEPs to seize this once-in-a-generation chance to enable life, and fuel-saving lorry designs now.