France and Sweden are trying to delay the entry into force of an EU law that will make trucks safer and more fuel-efficient, according to a document seen by EURACTIV.
Negotiations between the Parliament and the Council are under way. While the Parliament is asking for the rules to come into force as soon as possible, member states’ representatives are requesting to postpone it for at least 8 years.
The EU law on weighs and dimensions for trucks, proposed by the Commission in 2013, will allow the automobile manufacturers to build a new design for trucks.
Until now, all trucks had to comply with standardized EU rules on the length of trucks, for example. But it did not give car makers the option to manufacture new designs that would improve energy efficiency or safety.
Up to now, the maximum length of trucks in international traffic was limited to 18.75 meters and the weight must not exceed 40 tones. Having the same specifications helped ensure fair competition for trucks in different member states.
The new bill allows manufacturers to build heavier and larger trucks as long as they are safer on the roads and contribute to saving fuel.
The design, as proposed in the law, gives carmakers the chance to turn a brick-shaped truck into a rounded front cab. It also allows the producers to install aerodynamic flaps at the back of the vehicle.
As far as safety is concerned, the rounded cab will have bigger windscreens reducing the drivers’ blind spots. That will enable drivers to spot a cyclist or a pedestrian more easily. Adding aerodynamic flaps, according to the Commission, will also reduce fuel consumption and reduce CO2 emissions.
The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) criticised the new rules.
“There are many more effective ways of reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions than entirely redesigning the cabin,” said Erik Jonnaert, ACEA Secretary General.
“The industry is committed to continuing to improve truck safety. However, for this, safety technologies that prevent accidents happening in the first place are the best way forward. A whole vehicle approach represents the best possible solution.”
Both, the MEPs and EU ministers welcomed the introduction of these novelties, but they disagree on the date when the changes should apply.
According to the Transport & Environment NGO, the automobile industry is putting pressure on their national governments to postpone the entry into force of the new rules.
A compromise text, seen by EURACTIV, shows that France and Sweden are behind the delay.
Both countries are home to one of the largest truck manufacturers. The industry fears that if the new rules come into place too soon, the companies will suffer from increased competition from other manufacturers.
In fact, only a few days ago, the Commission opened a cartel investigation against EU truckmakers. It suspects that a number of truck manufacturers are engaged in price fixing to control supply and demand.
“The truck industry is operating like a cartel. They try to kill innovation and competition but may end up killing real people too,” said William Todts, a Transport & Environment Senior Adviser. “New curvy truck designs could save (up to) 900 lives every year and actually save business money.”
“That the French and Swedish government are backing the truck cartel against their own citizens is unforgivable, but that Mr Cameron would let them to get away with it is inexplicable.”
The UK has a high number of accidents involving trucks. Nine of the 16 cyclist deaths in London in 2011 involved trucks.