Government says no to super lorries

The government's decision not to allow a trail of longer heavier vehicles (LHVs) in the UK has left the industry disappointed. However, the Department for Transport (DfT) has said it will consider the possibility of allowing longer semi-trailers, such as Kogel's 14.9m Big-MAXX (CM 10 April). Some 300 of these units are already being tested in Germany.

Transport secretary Ruth Kelly says the report by the Transport Research Laboratory and Heriot-Watt University shows that LHVs could create too many problems to allow a trial. The report found that LHVs could increase CO2 emissions because loads would be shifted from rail to road. It also raised concerns about the management of the infrastructure, because LHVs would not be suitable for many roads and junctions, as well as creating new road-safety risks.

Kelly adds: "There are also uncertainties about how efficiently such vehicles could be used, particularly when sourcing loads of sufficient size to make return journeys sustainable and about their impacts on the viability of existing rail freight services." Professor Alan McKinnon, from Heriot-Watt University, says it's positive that the government is keeping its options open about a longer semi-trailer, because this could have real benefit for the industry, allowing them to carry an extra six pallets per vehicle.

Roger King, chief executive at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), says the CO2 issue sounds like "an excuse". He adds: "We always knew there would be some aspects of the road network that would be unsuitable for LHVs, which was why we wanted to operate a system of registered routes." However, King says the RHA membership is relaxed about LHVs. "While we wanted a trial, many of our members felt the use of LHVs could have resulted in a reduction in haulage rates."

Geoff Dossetter, external affairs director at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), adds: "It's clear the rail lobby is being protected and we're disappointed that a possible way of improving transport efficiency was rejected without even a trial." The two biggest supporters of LHVs in the UK, Dick Denby from Denby Transport and Stan Robinson from Stan Robinson Group were unavailable for comment as CM went to press.