Fixing freight

Trucking plays a vital part in the economy yet it poses a major challenge for the environment and road safety. Trucks represent less than 5% of all vehicles on the road in Europe but are responsible for around a quarter of road transport’s greenhouse gas emissions. Stagnant fuel consumption levels in recent years are also costing hauliers and the economy. At the same time 4,000 EU citizens die in truck accidents year after year. To tackle these problems, T&E is pushing lawmakers in Europe to introduce the EU’s first ever truck CO2 standards as well as effective vehicle safety regulations without delay.

But the road to truck CO2 reduction targets is a long one, and developing a tool to measure fuel consumption is a crucial step. The VECTO test protocol developed by the European Commission and governments will make the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from new heavy-goods vehicles available for truck buyers. But it will not remove the market barriers truck buyers are currently struggling with when purchasing new vehicles (such as the limited array of fuel efficiency technologies available and sometimes only at high prices). T&E teamed up with transport industry representatives to accelerate the introduction of VECTO, thus guaranteeing a transparent test procedure and an on-road test. We also joined hauliers from across Europe and logistics giant Schenker France SAS to call for mandatory disclosure by truckmakers of their vehicles’ fuel efficiency and other relevant data. Greater transparency should drive competition in a truckmaking sector that has already been caught operating as a cosy cartel.

While truckmakers were resisting these measures, the potential for greater efficiency was becoming clearer: fuel consumption of new truck tractor units could be reduced 24% by 2025 if manufacturers introduced proven fuel efficiency technologies. These improvements would be cost-effective for hauliers as virtually all of the fuel savings could be achieved within a payback time of less than three years. Clear evidence – if any more was needed – that CO2 standards can deliver a lot more than business as usual. The Commission is now set to propose Europe’s first ever CO2 standards in May 2018. Back in May 2017, the Commission proposed expanding distance-based road charging for trucks and a phase-out of time-based vignette systems by 2024. The Commission also moved to vary charges based on the CO2 emissions from vehicles and to offer a toll discount for zero-emission vehicles. Charging per kilometer encourages drivers to take the most efficient route and discourages empty trips while reducing congestion and pollution.

Safety last?

Meanwhile, calls have been growing for another long awaited law: improved safety standards for new vehicles. Transport ministers from eight countries united to demand new EU-wide rules, such as trucks with improved direct vision to eradicate blind spots. MEPs said the direct vision rules should be attuned to different truck types so that a truckmaker will not be required to have all its fleet conform to one standard via a one-size-fits-all design. A group of 18 major European cities also asked Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to prioritise road safety as soon as possible. T&E is also working on updates regarding tyre pressure monitoring systems, intelligent speed assistance, and automatic emergency braking systems. The Commission proposal to revise the General Safety Regulation will come in May 2018.

Meanwhile, T&E has been working to better understand what needs to change in order for more freight to be transported by train – to achieve modal shift. Last year we launched a website which provides the lessons learned from researching the rail freight sector over the past three years, learning from workshops involving key stakeholders but also from visits to companies and freight hubs.

„Auch Europa braucht jetzt dringend CO2-Vorschriften für Lkw, um den Innovationswettbewerb voranzutreiben und die Anwendung kraftstoffsparender Technologien zu beschleunigen“– Stef Cornelis, T&E cleaner trucks officer VerkehrsRundschau, 31 May 2017

Effort sharing becomes climate action

While T&E has been working to bring about Europe’s first ever truck CO2 targets, another law would have potentially the biggest climate impact of all. Under the Climate Action Regulation, the EU would set countries’ national targets for emissions reductions in transport, buildings, agriculture and other sectors by 2030. Throughout the legislative process, T&E was constantly battling against flexibilities and loopholes inserted into the regulation by governments seeking to shirk their responsibilities under the Paris agreement. T&E published a ranking of the most and least ambitious countries based on what they were really saying in negotiations. Our efforts were particularly successful in the European Parliament where MEPs pushed governments for greater ambition. But, as expected, national environment ministers failed to live up to their public commitments and instead missed an opportunity to promote cleaner air, greater innovation, lower energy bills and more livable cities. But even if not ideal – and not enough to stick to what was agreed in Paris – these national targets do mean countries will still have to make efforts to reduce their emissions in these sectors.