Dear HVTT Forum members,
This month, I would like to offer an exciting newsletter, reporting on the positive developments from Europe. Thanks to Franziska Schmidt (FRA), Chris de Saxe (UK), and Thomas Asp (SWE) I compiled very interesting newsletter from various parts of Europe where you can read about the continuous progress on implementation High-Capacity Vehicles in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, Spain, and United Kingdom.
Starting from the north, the Swedish government has recently decided to permit the use of 34.5-meter-long vehicle combinations within the country. However, it should be noted that comprehensive regulations for both infrastructure and vehicles are still being developed and will not be finalized until the end of this year. Consequently, the deployment of these vehicles on the roads will not take place before the completion of the regulations.
Under this new policy, approximately 4000 kilometers of state roads will be opened for these longer vehicle combinations. It is important to mention that only the best and safest roads will be included in this initiative. Additionally, considerations are being given to the accessibility of the first and last mile, which often involves the utilization of municipality roads. Despite the introduction of longer vehicle combinations, the maximum weight limit remains unchanged at 74 tons. Moreover, no additional requirements will be imposed on drivers, as such changes are not permitted due to EU regulations. The primary objective of this new policy is to enable 34.5-meter vehicles to utilize the same roads as their 25.25-meter counterparts. The rationale behind this decision is that it is more efficient and cost-effective to adapt the vehicles rather than the infrastructure. Although specific vehicle requirements are yet to be finalized, the focus is on the following areas:
1)Traffic Safety, covering sufficient stability, including rearward amplification, and adequate quality of components such as coupling devices and brakes. Additionally, satisfactory field of vision for the driver, particularly regarding indirect vision, which may involve the use of mirrors, camera systems, or similar technologies will be required.
2) Hill Climbing and Manoeuvrability:
Adequate hill climbing ability to ascend certain gradients, even in slippery road conditions.
Ensuring the vehicle combinations can navigate intersections and roundabouts smoothly, allowing their passage.
At this first step, following two 34.5m combinations are planned to be deployed:
This triggered Denmark who will allow A-doubles (called as DUO-Trailer), from January 2024, but only on one stretch from city of Århus to the Swedish boarder (340 km).
A similar situation has recently occurred in Spain, where DUO-Trailers have been legalized since April 2023. They are permitted to operate solely on motorways and specific infrastructure that connects highways with logistic hubs. The total weight of the vehicle combination is limited to 70 tons, and the hauling unit must have a minimum power output of 580 HP.
In the Netherlands, the DUO-trailer pilot project has been revived. Thanks to the efforts of the National Logistic Branch Organization (TLN), which initiated discussions with the Ministry of Transport and the Vehicle Regulator (RDW), a “test day” was organized in the port of Rotterdam. The Minister of Transport was invited and personally drove the DUO-Trailer combination on a closed terrain. This event sparked numerous positive discussions and led to a plan to relaunch the pilot in March 2024. The pilot will involve a comprehensive gap analysis, where TLN and RDW will examine the challenges encountered during previous trials. They will also explore how the DUO-Trailer operates in other countries such as Sweden, Finland, and Spain. Additionally, the pilot aims to assess the response of other road users to the DUO-Trailer.
The French General Inspectorate for the Environment and Sustainable Development (IGEDD) has been tasked with studying the feasibility of conducting an experiment on High-Capacity Vehicles in France. The group is currently in the process of preparing its report, which is expected to be submitted to the French Minister of Transport soon. Since the report has not yet been submitted, it is challenging to provide details on its content. However, certain issues have already been identified, which come as no surprise. These include impacts on infrastructure, road safety, training and social aspects for drivers, as well as economic and environmental considerations. If France decides to allow High-Capacity Vehicles, it would create a region in which the use of on High-Capacity Vehicles is permitted. This region would consist of Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Spain. It is hoped that this would lead to the establishment of unified regulations instead of the current situation, where individual countries have their own provisions determining the rules and regulations surrounding these vehicles.
Besides continental Europe, there have been some positive news also from United Kingdom regarding the High-Capacity vehicles. The UK government has approved the use of so-called “Longer Semi-Trailers” (LST) in England, Scotland and Wales from 31 May 2023. LSTs are up to 15.65 m in length compared to standard 13.6 m trailers, meaning that a tractor semi-trailer combination can operate at up to 18.55 m total length. However, the standard 44-tonne combination mass limit will remain in force, meaning that only volume-limited freight will benefit. This comes after an extensive 12-year trial during which the performance of LST vehicle combinations has been closely monitored. Participants in the trial have been required to obtain a vehicle special order (VSO) in order to operate legally outside of regulated length limits and have had to submit monitoring data to an independent third-party trial evaluator every four months. There were over 2500 operating LSTs by the end of the trial period. Data from the trial confirmed the well-known benefits of increasing vehicle capacity: reduced costs and emissions for the same freight task and reduced number of lorries on our roads. Furthermore, the data showed that the LST accident and injury rates were lower than the general articulated HGV fleet in the UK against all measures including in urban areas. Going forwards, the vehicles will be under increased scrutiny through additional route and risk assessment requirements.
Regarding the weather here in the Netherlands, we are currently experiencing a beautiful spring. It is sunny, and more importantly, there is less rainfall compared to the excessive precipitation levels we had until the end of April. This weather pattern has been observed across most of Europe, with one exception being Spain. In April, Spain faced temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius, resulting in a record-breaking heatwave for this time of year.
HVTT Forum Vice President, Europe