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Safety improvements ‘will be tackled in the revision process of the General Safety Regulation’, the Commission said earlier this month in a proposal to the expert group that is preparing the technical specifications for redesigned cabins. It means safety advances would be referred to a future legislative process and would not be linked to obtaining a length derogation as the Commission had initially proposed.
The Commission’s change of heart came three days after the push for safety and aerodynamic improvements received a major boost on March 18 when the European Parliament’s transport committee overwhelmingly supported the Commission’s original proposal to give lorry manufacturers more design space for the front end, allowing a more streamlined nose and ending the era of Europe’s ‘brick-shaped’ lorries.
MEPs decided that some of the extra cab space has to be used to remove blind spots, include a crumple zone and avoid pedestrians and cyclists being knocked underneath the wheels in a collision. Lorry makers can introduce the life-saving features straight away but Parliament wants to enable the improvements by 2017 and wants them mandatory for all new lorries by 2022.
The result will be fuel-efficient design measures such as better aerodynamics, which will make lorries cheaper to run and cut climate-changing emissions by 7-10%.
The MEPs’ vote needs to be confirmed by the plenary of the Parliament on 15 April before the draft law can be considered by EU member states. But T&E has called for clarity from the Commission on how it intends to proceed with its implementation after Commission officials once again backtracked on safety commitments in a proposal for experts. In a letter to EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas, T&E called for the executive body to implement the safety requirements as per its original proposal.
T&E clean vehicles officer, William Todts, said: ‘We were worried that industry lobbying would affect the position of certain EU-governments but that the Commission tries to go back on its safety commitment after it used it to convince Parliament to support it, comes as a quite a surprise.
‘We find this tinkering with the Commission proposal quite unacceptable and strongly urge Vice President Kallas to ensure his services stand by his proposal, especially now that it received such strong backing by MEPs.’
Lorries’ environmental performance has stagnated over the last 20 years, while that of cars and vans has improved. Though they make up just 3% of vehicles, trucks account for a quarter of Europe’s road transport emissions. This is expected to grow as traffic increases further. Also, in 2011, lorries were involved in 15% of all fatal collisions – killing around 4,200 people.
MEPs also rejected the Commission’s proposal to allow the cross-border use of ‘megatrucks’. Instead, they demanded that the Commission properly assesses longer lorries’ impact and report back to Parliament in 2016.