Green light for lorries redesign but only after 2022

Representatives of EU governments have signed off on a deal that will put an end to brick-shaped lorry designs and clear the way for advances in fuel efficiency and safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. The agreement allows lorrymakers to produce new designs but the truck industry secured a ban until 2022 even though the new designs are voluntary, not mandatory.

The design changes will allow European lorries to have slightly longer, more aerodynamic cabins than the current box-shaped ones, which are restricted to 2.35m in length. The new designs would improve protection for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as crash performance and the driver’s field of vision, which could be increased 50%. 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%, which could save hauliers around €3,000 per vehicle per year and help put an end to 20 years of stagnating lorry fuel efficiency. While lorries make up only 3% of vehicles, they account for 25% of road transport CO2 emissions in Europe.

The agreement was reached as it emerged that emissions from freight are set to increase so fast that the logistics sector will release more CO2 than passenger traffic by 2050. The International Transport Forum (ITF), an OECD body, has forecast a 286% average increase by the middle of the century.

Freight by road transport is set to soar by just over 300%, accounting for more than half of overall freight emissions. Air freight CO2 emissions will rise by 411% on 2010 levels to 767 million tonnes while rail and sea freight, which accounts for around 85% of all freight moved, will see 250% and 238% increases in CO2 respectively, ITF predicts.

The lorries agreement now needs to be ratified by the plenary of the European Parliament.

However, T&E has warned that it will be up to the Commission to progress the redesigns by proposing new safety requirements for trucks in amendments to its vehicle safety regulations, which have been announced for 2016.

T&E’s senior policy officer, William Todts, said: ‘It’s a big day for truck safety and greener trucks but not thanks to the truck industry. They’ve opposed life and fuel-saving changes every step of the way and successfully lobbied for the postponement of the introduction of new designs until 2022.”

The European Commission originally proposed that lorrymakers would be free to introduce the new designs by 2017. MEPs supported this stance but EU governments were persuaded to push for a ban until 2025 by manufacturers eager to delay any disruption of the ‘competitive balance’ between them. In trilogue negotiations, the Parliament managed to reduce the delay to 2022, although the exact timing remains uncertain and depends on when the new safety rules will be agreed.

William Todts added: ‘Just weeks after the Commission announced a probe into lorry industry price fixing and cartel, the EU met their demand to ban innovation for as long as possible. This is an industry that sorely needs more competition, especially on fuel efficiency. Regulators should draw the right conclusions and follow the US example and set ambitious fuel efficiency standards for lorries.’