Sometimes in life we have to make choices. This is also true for the question: “Do we as European citizens, policy makers and logistics leaders envision a future road network, for which we allow 25,25m long trucks weighing up to 60 tonnes to operate?” At Combined Transport the answer is a clear NO!
We would like to share 6 reasons that explain why with you:
- External costs and infrastructure: The central issue wether longer and heavier trucks (Mega-Trucks, Gigaliners,Ecocombis, Monster-Trucks, etc.) measuring 25.25m in length and weighing up to 60 tonnes should be allowed on European roads is closely linked to the topics of costs for infrastructure enhancements and other externalities. Mega trucks would require new roads and maybe even extra lanes on highways, widening of roundabouts and access lanes, upgrading of level crossings, enlargement of parking areas and adjusted logistic infrastructure. As a majority of bridges was built in the 70s and 80s based on different load scenarios, civil engineering work would be required rather sooner than later. In addition the European society has to deal with increased pollution, noise and most likely accidents.
- The claim of capacity increase: One part of the road sector stakeholders – in particular truck manufacturers and hauliers – argument that mega trucks lead to capacity increase, claiming that same freight volumes can be shipped using fewer road vehicles. Road unit costs on long haul runs would hencefore be reduced by 20-25%. This however is a bold assumption as logistic processes and supply chains would have to optmized to always ensure a full utlization of these mega trucks. Today maximum load and empty run optimization is already a challenge with normal trucks, why should that change with longer, heavier vehicles? Given the case that the logistic industry would follow down that route, then a local concentration of freight volumes would be the result leading to the requirement for larger distribution centers and expanded access capacity on the road networks.
- Transport safety: Introducing mega trucks onto already congested road and highways increases the likelyhood of accidents. According to Eurostat, today the road accidents with critical or fatal outcome show an overproportinally high involvement of trucks. What kind of effect will the introduction of heavier and longer trucks have, especially if we think about the co-existence with cars, bikes, bicycles and pedestrians? What about overtaking risks or sensitivity to cross winds, breaking distances and visability in general? We want European citenzens to be safer on the roads!
- Imbalance of modal split: If we take a look at how freight is transported through Europe, we can see that road is dominating all other transport modes. Of course the reasons are manigfold and based on a historical development as well as the low cost, high flexibility and barrier free nature of trucking. However, we think that Europe can and should strive for using other modes of transport more efficiently again, with the goal to create a more resilient, less congested, more environmentally friendly and thus more sustainable transportation network. This would required to strengthen railways, inland waterways and pipelines and invest into terminals and technologies to optimize the intermodal flow of goods.
- Contradiction with policy objectives: Moving more freight on the road network using mega trucks would directly contradict and run counter the initiatives the European Concil and many national transport ministers have introduced in recent years. The 3 passend railways packages, investement in R&D for example Horizon2020 and national legislation to strengthen combined transportation have all followed the goal to shift traffic away from road and distribute it more evenly amongst other modes of transport.
- Advantadges of Combined Transport: To unfold its full potential Combined Transportation needs time and investment. Efforts that have been made over that last years to improve price competitiveness, quality of transport, speed and reliablility as well as terminal access will reach their full impact in the years to come and need a stable environment to grow. For example the definition of rail freight corridors, the completition of Gotthardt base tunnel, the implementation of ERTMS train control and communication, the rationalisation and advancement of Europe’s wagon fleet as well as the intorduction of modern technologies like telematics and IoT solutions will advance the intermodal flow of goods. If road standards are further lowered now, meaning allowing heavier and longer vehicles on the road without making operators responsible for taking on the associated external costs, then Combined Transportation would further loose competitiveness. However we need the opposite effect to occur for a healthy, European transport network!