EP: Parliament approves safer trucks
The European Parliament voted through a proposal 15 April that should help make trucks safer for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as reduce CO2 emissions.
MEPs, however, rejected plans to allow so-called 'mega-trucks' across the EU, leaving the decision to member states.
606 MEPs voted in favour of the proposal. Only 75 MEPs voted against.
The amendments to the directive on the maximum weights and dimensions for lorries proposed by the European Commission, should help make trucks safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and help reduce CO2 emissions. They will also make the vehicles more comfortable for truck drivers themselves, MEPs and supporters said after the vote.
If member states approve the new legislation, new trucks (see sketch below) could become mandatory as of 2022 on European roads. The new design would signal the end of brick-shaped trucks, and introduce a more rounded aerodynamic chassis that would not only increase the driver’s field of vision, but also make collisions with pedestrians or cyclists less deadly, the European Commission said.
These new aerodynamic standards are also aimed at reducing fuel consumption, and thereby greenhouse gas emissions, by 7-10%, supporters of the legislation explained.
"A brick is the least aerodynamic shape you can imagine. That's why we need to improve the shape of the lorries on our roads," said Siim Kallas, the EU commissioner in charge of transport. "These changes make road transport cleaner and safer. They will reduce hauliers' fuel bills, and give European manufacturers a head-start in designing the truck of the future, a greener truck for the global market," he added.
Lawmakers believe that the new legislation will also boost investments in research and development (R&D) for the sector by opening new opportunities for automotive companies.
According to research done by the NGO Transport and Environment (T&E), the redesign would cost between €400 and 1,500 per vehicle, on top of the cost for a new lorry, which is between €80,000 and €100,000. But the “extra purchase cost would be recouped by fuel savings within a year,” it says.
No cross-border trials for mega-trucks
The European Commission expressed disappointment, however, with the Parliament’s refusal to approve the executive’s amendments allowing extra-large vehicles across the Union.
EU lawmakers rejected the possibility for oversized trucks used in trials outside of national borders, and asked the European Commission to come up with an environmental impact study for such vehicles by 2016, before considering further steps.
The cross-border rules for longer trucks had already been subject to controversy when the legislation was proposed, with the EU executive clarifying its position to the chair of the Parliament’s transport committee in 2012.
Mega-trucks are still far from making their way on to Europe’s roads, since the legislation has yet to be negotiated with national governments, which will not happen under the current legislature.
Once the negotiations start, many stakeholders fear member states could water down the text. Truck manufacturers have asked for a moratorium on new body designs until at least 2025, in order to safeguard “competitive neutrality”. Green campaigners fear that this will “stifle competitive pressure” by allowing “lorry makers to move all at the same time”.
The most important change - a summary:
• New truck cab designs should make it easier for drivers to spot pedestrians and cyclists; other changes would enable designers to exceed current maximum weight and length limits in order to fit alternative-fuel engines and to streamline cabs to cut emissions;
• On the issue of ‘megatrucks’: "Parliament has always asked the European Commission for a proper impact assessment. By deleting the parts of the legislative proposal on cross-border circulation for longer vehicles, we reinforce this position. The Commission will be asked to review the situation and report back to the Parliament and the Council by 2016", said lead MEP Jörg Leichtfried
• The draft rules would allow truck cabins to be made longer if designed to cut emissions, e.g. by improving aerodynamics; or to prevent accidents, e.g. by reducing blind spots or making the cab more rounded to push people clear, so that they are not run over;
• Aerodynamic flaps up to 50 cm wide would be allowed at the rear of the truck to reduce drag and emissions. To encourage the use of less polluting motors, many of which are heavier and hence less commercially attractive than traditional ones, trucks and busses with low-carbon alternatives, could exceed the current maximum weight by up to one tonne, depending on the weight of the alternative system;
• Boost for "intermodal" transport - the draft rules would also allow trucks for use in combined road-rail or road-ship transport operations to be made 15 cm longer, to make it easier to load standard 45-foot containers
The European Parliament voted on its first reading of the draft legislation, in order to consolidate the work done so far and hand it over to the next Parliament. This ensures that the MEPs newly elected in May can build on work done during the current term.
source: EurActiv / European Parliament
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