Will EU governments stand in the way of world’s safest lorries?
New rules for lorry design, which campaigners hope will reduce fuel consumption and emissions and save hundreds of lives, have been accepted almost unanimously by the full European Parliament. For the first time, MEPs also called for the introduction of fuel efficiency standards for lorries. But these proposed rules, which must now be agreed by EU member states, face opposition from national transport ministers seeking to shield some lorry makers from innovation.
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Under the proposal, lorry makers would have more design space for the cab, allowing a more streamlined nose. Some blind spots could also be eliminated while new design space could also provide for a crumple zone and make sure pedestrians and cyclists are not knocked underneath the wheels in a collision.
But MEPs rejected the Commission’s proposal to allow the cross-border use of longer lorries. Instead, Parliament called on the Commission to properly assess the impact of wider ‘megatrucks’ use and report back to in 2016.
If passed, the legislation would mean designs can be improved immediately but Parliament wants the safety features to become mandatory for all new lorries by 2022. Every year 15% of all fatal collisions in Europe – around 4,200 deaths – involve lorries, according to the European Transport Safety Council.
Jeannot Mersch, president of the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims, said: ‘Thousands of lives are sadly lost and many more victims are severely injured in lorry crashes every year. Rounded, streamlined lorry cabs could help avoid hundreds of these deaths and injuries. The EU governments have a moral obligation to embrace this hugely beneficial decision. Delaying or blocking this decision would be unforgivable.’
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 at today’s diesel prices. While lorries make up only 3% of vehicles, they account for 25% of road transport CO2 emissions in Europe. Their fuel efficiency has barely improved in the last 20 years.
Despite the safety and efficiency benefits, manufacturers oppose the improvements. Some have called for new designs to be halted until 2025 to ensure ‘competitive neutrality’ and allow time for industry to adapt. But T&E said this would merely be a way to prevent innovative competitors from being the first to make better lorries. Swedish manufacturer Scania has welcomed the extra cab space but opposes some safety standards such as improved direct vision for drivers.
The proposal will now be discussed by EU governments, which are likely to negotiate with the Parliament on the implementation dates for safety provisions and whether they should be mandatory from 2022.
T&E’s clean vehicles officer, William Todts, said: ‘It’s totally unacceptable for EU governments to roadblock life-saving changes to lorry cabs just to shield industry laggards from innovation. We are talking about avoidable deaths in our cities and motorways. If these governments really care about road safety and climate change, they should put their money where their mouths are, and support safer, cleaner lorries now.’