EU agrees on safer, cleaner lorries - but by 2022

The 28 EU governments and the European Parliament last night reached a deal to end brick-shaped lorries, which are inefficient and very dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. The agreed law gives manufacturers the ability to produce more streamlined, safer and fuel-efficient lorries but, amid heavy lobbying by industry, sets a delay until 2022 [1] before redesigned lorry cabs are allowed on Europe’s roads. Member State representatives still need to formally approve the deal at a COREPER meeting on December 17th.

Current rules on weights and dimensions of lorries restrict cab length to 2.35m, which explains why European lorries have such box-shaped cabins. The agreed design changes would allow lorry makers to create a slightly longer and more streamlined nose, which would improve pedestrian protection, crash performance and could increase the driver’s field of view by 50%.

Commenting on the deal, William Todts of Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “This deal signals the end of dangerous and inefficient brick-shaped trucks. This is good news for hauliers and truck drivers and, above all, for pedestrians and cyclists who’ll be much safer. But the absurd and unprecedented decision to impose a ban on new lorry designs until 2022 casts a dark shadow over the agreement.” 

Under the original Commission proposal, new designs would have been allowed by around 2017. The European Parliament supported this. Lorry makers lobbied to only allow new designs much later fearing a quick allowance would disrupt the “competitive balance” between them. They convinced EU Member States to impose a ban until 2025. At the negotiating table, the Parliament limited the damage and negotiated this down to 2022, although the exact timing remains uncertain.

William Todts continued: “Few other industries would do what the lorry industry has done here: lobby hard to keep a ban on a better product for as long as possible. This is the same industry the Commission recently started investigating for price fixing. Clearly the Commission needs to do much more to inject real competition in this sector. Setting ambitious fuel efficiency standards for trucks like the US has done would be a good start.”

Every year 15% of all fatal collisions in Europe – around 4,200 deaths – involve lorries, according to the European Transport Safety Council. That makes lorries twice as deadly as cars. According to a new European Commission study, life-saving design changes to lorry cabs can save up to 900 lives every year [2]. In a separate declaration the Commission has said it will propose amendments to its vehicle safety regulations in 2016 to develop new safety requirements for trucks.

While lorries make up only 3% of vehicles, they account for 25% of road transport CO2 emissions in Europe. Their fuel efficiency has stagnated for the last 20 years and, contrary to cars or vans, the EU has not set fuel economy standards for trucks. 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.

Earlier this year, a coalition of 130 mayors, trade unions, cyclists’ organisations, hauliers’ associations, fleets, green and safety campaigners asked MEPs to seize this once-in-a-generation chance to enforce life and fuel-saving lorry designs as soon as possible.

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

Footnotes: 

[1] The specific safety rules for new truck designs need to be developed in a separate vehicle safety legislation (Regulation 661/2009). A proposal to amend this law will be made by 2016. After the safety rules have been agreed (ca. 1.5-2 years co-decision, 1.5-2 years implementation, so around 2019-2020), a 3-year moratorium kicks in.

2015

Formal adoption of new lorry dimension rules

2016

Commission proposal to develop safety rules for redesigned lorries

2019-2020

Finalisation of safety rules (co-decision + implementation)

2021-2022

End of 3-year moratorium – safer lorries allowed


[2] TRL 2014, Draft Project Report, Benefit and Feasibility of a Range of New Technologies and Unregulated Measures in the fields of Vehicle Occupant Safety and Protection of Vulnerable Road Users, 90. Summary available at http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/newsroom/cf/itemdetail.cfm?item_id=7803

Contact the press team

Nico Muzi
Communications Director
+32 (0)484 27 87 91 
nico.muzi@transportenvironment.org

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