Governments want 8-year prohibition of safer lorries

EU transport ministers will this week decide whether to approve changing the design rules for lorry cabins which will make them safer and more fuel efficient. Last month, governments reached a provisional agreement on the changes but set a delay of eight years before redesigned lorry cabs can be produced in Europe.

France and Sweden had pushed for a delay of 13 years in order to shield national manufacturers Renault Trucks and Volvo, which fear competitors would be better placed to use the new design flexibility. However, an agreement to delay safer lorries for eight years was reached after the UK, Germany, Denmark and other countries resisted the even longer delay.
 
The European Parliament voted to allow the safer designs immediately and wanted lorry makers to be able to introduce life-saving designs straight away if they chose to, without being forced to do so. But the governments’ provisional agreement would block this enabling law for eight years; three years for the law to be transposed into national law and a five-year delay thereafter. Council and Parliament are expected to start negotiating a final deal after summer.
 
‘Calling for a delay to an enabling law is absurd because it prevents those who are ready to do the right thing,’ said William Todts, senior policy officer at T&E. ‘Redesigned lorries would be cleaner, cheaper to run and improve working conditions for hundreds of thousands of lorry drivers. The EU shouldn’t prohibit cleaner and safer lorries, it should encourage them.’
 
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.
 
Every year 15% of all fatal collisions in Europe – around 4,200 deaths – involve lorries, according to the European Transport Safety Council. 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.
 
The provisional agreement, including the eight-year delay, will now be discussed by European transport ministers at a council meeting on Thursday. If approval is given, the European Commission, member states and European Parliament will begin negotiations on a final agreement before it can become law.
 
‘Europe’s transport ministers must reject any delay of safer, cleaner lorries,’ Todts added. ‘If they don’t, it will be up to the Commission and Parliament to help member states get their priorities right. Europe needs better lorries and it needs them now.’