DaimlerChrysler HDEP to Launch in August

DaimlerChrysler's Heavy Duty Engine Platform (HDEP), its delayed global platform will launch in the US in August, Freightliner sources tell us. We do not know whether the entire 12, 14 and 15 litre range will be launched at once, but have been made aware of significant problems with the higher volume engine. Freightliner's new Class 8 truck, due for launch in May will be the first recipient of the new engine, which replaces the now venerable Detroit Diesel Series 60 in most markets.It's uncertain as to whether a European HDEP will break cover at the European RAI Show, or an Asian variant at the Tokyo Truck Show, both taking place in October. However, HDEP is a key plank in DC's global policy, an so we assume that global availability is not far away.

Do longer, heavier vehicles mean more accidents?

Various EU countries are currently debating whether to follow the example set by Finland and Sweden to introduce longer heavier vehicles (LHVs). The Netherlands has already commenced trials with positive results, although other countries, such as Germany, remain sceptical.

The main worry is that road safety could be heavily compromised, but the most recent accident data in 2004 seems to indicate otherwise. General road accident statistics released from the Directorate General of Energy and Transport at the European Commission show Germany has some serious road safety work to do. With 339,310 accidents in one year, it came topped the league, ahead of Italy (224,553) and Britain (214,194). However, these three countries have significantly more accidents than any other EU country - the next in line is Spain with 94,009.

And the two countries which have been running LHVs for 36 years show remarkably low accident rates: Sweden recorded 17,254 and Finland, only 6,767. These figures, of course, tell only half the story, because they are compiled with data from all roads. As LHVs are and will be mainly motorway-bound, comparable data should be taken from that specific source.

On these major roads, as you might expect the figures are significantly lower, and the ratios pretty much remain the same. Germany is still top with 21,458 accidents, followed by Britain's 9,238. And Finland's figure is minimal showing only 164 accidents on its motorways in 2004.

A separate set of figures narrows down how many road fatalities were caused by HGVs that same year. Finland and Sweden with their supposedly dangerous LHVs showed a combined total of seven fatalities over the 12 months, while Spain's regular HGVs caused 151 deaths that year. Spain was followed by France with 78 and Britain with 47 fatalities. No figures are available for Germany.

The two pie charts show collective accident data from all EU countries on all vehicles except cars (because they make up such a huge majority). Both within and outside urban areas, the motorcycle has the highest accident count, followed closely by mopeds. Pushbikes also make up a significant proportion in both categories.

HGVs and commercial vehicles below 3.5 tonnes are in a minority inside urban areas, although they account for a significantly bigger slice of pie outside of urban areas.

The figures and graphs show that, even although HGVs are involved in accidents, they are not the main offenders. It also shows that countries running LHVs do not have more accidents than those without. It seems it is driver skill, and not the size of the vehicle, that matters.