Lorry safety advances under threat after vote delayed

There are concerns for the future of lorry design proposals that would drastically improve road safety, after a vote in the European Parliament was postponed earlier this month. The Transport Committee will not decide until March 18 on the long-awaited rules governing driver visibility, lorry-crash performance and more aerodynamic, emissions-saving design.

The changes have been delayed due to disagreements over whether to allow so-called ‘megatrucks’ to cross national borders. The Commission’s proposal would make lorry cabs slightly longer, enabling a rounded nose with improved visibility and driver comfort as well as fuel savings.
 
The proposal is widely supported. In January, T&E and 17 other organisations signed  a joint declaration for ‘Safer, cleaner lorries, now!’ The group, representing interests as diverse as 130 city mayors, hauliers, trade unions and cyclists, called for immediate action to make lorries safer and cleaner.
 
However, the Commission’s move to allow megatrucks to cross national borders between consenting countries, which is part of the same review, is proving a stumbling blocking to agreement among MEPs. 
 
A vote on 18 March leaves very little time to finalise the file in time for the last plenary session of the current Parliament on 14 April. Failure to vote in April would mean the new Parliament would have to start from scratch. 
 
Commenting on the postponement, William Todts of T&E said: “The Commission has mismanaged the megatrucks issue. First they unilaterally overturn a longstanding ban and then they make a proposal to allow border crossing without considering the impacts. How can policymakers reach a well-informed decision before the Commission shows the effect that such a change would have on safety, emissions, infrastructure or competing modes? Meanwhile, let’s focus on improving lorries and making sure we get safer, cleaner vehicles on our roads as soon as possible.”
 
There are growing fears that member states and Council will put the interests of lorry manufacturers ahead of safety and the environment. Lorry makers, with Volvo and Scania among the most vocal, are lobbying for extra design space but refusing to make trucks safer in return. They also demand that new designs be prohibited until 2025 to safeguard “competitive neutrality”. Some see this as a bid to prevent competitors making the first move. Others fear it could upset the relationship with their customers, which demanded safer, more fuel-efficient lorries now.
 
William Todts added: “The industry position is indefensible. They want more design flexibility but are refusing to accept  any safety standards or fuel efficiency requirements. But the worst is that they’re calling for safer, new designs to be banned until 2025. That’s tragic and irresponsible, when the death toll of lorry crashes in Europe is over 4,000 people every year and many could be saved by safer design.”