Parliament backs the introduction of safer trucks in 2022

12669783163_1255ddfa9c_z.jpg [Richard Clark (Digimist) / Flickr]

The European Parliament approved new rules on Tuesday (10 March) allowing manufacturers to build larger and more aerodynamic trucks that supporters say will improve road safety and reduce polluting emissions.

The new lorry designs, mandatory as of 2022, include rounded front cabs and aerodynamic flaps at the back of the vehicles. Such changes will help lorry drivers reduce accidents by making it easier to spot and avoid bicycles and motorcycles on the roads.

Parliament’s vote comes after lengthy negotiations with the Council of Ministers. The legislators disagreed on the start date for mandatory designs.

While MEPs backed the European Commission’s proposal to oblige automobile manufacturers to produce newly designed trucks starting in 2017, the Council rejected the proposal and called for a delay until 2025.

It emerged that Member States, particularly France and Sweden, opposed an early start, fearing increased competition from foreign makers. Both countries are home to some of the largest truck manufacturers in the world.

>> Read: France and Sweden delay the introduction of safer trucks

A deal was brokered by the Italian EU Presidency last December, setting 2022 as the start date, despite pressure from MEPs and environmental campaigners for the law to come into force earlier.

Introducing cross-border trials of extra-large lorries was another controversy that delayed an agreement in the EU institutions. Trucks larger than 18.75 metres in length and 40 tonnes in weight can be used in trials only within national borders.

A provision in the new rules was supposed to allow for these trucks to go cross-border, but it was blocked by the Parliament and Council.

Both co-legislators considered trials of extra-large trucks unsafe. Instead, they asked the Commission to assess its impact before approving such a law.

The new law still has to be formally approved by the Council before it officially enters into force. A meeting of the EU transport ministers will take place in June.

Member States have time until 2019 to integrate the EU rules into national legislation. 

The International Automobile Federation's (FIA) Director General, Jacob Bangsgaard said:

“The goal of this Directive was safer trucks on European roads and the FIA is pleased that it has, finally, been approved. But the timeline given to the Commission will delay necessary changes that should be implemented right away for better efficiency and safety. We know that truck drivers currently suffer from a lack of visibility that can cause grievous harm to vulnerable road users. This is why, in this case, the final timeline lets down road users and does not serve the cab drivers either. We had hoped to see a more disciplined time frame to implement these design improvements that would allow those manufacturers who are ready now to make safer and more fuel efficient cab designs the opportunity to do so for the benefit of all.” 

William Todts of Green campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E), said:

“With today's vote we turn a page in road safety and lorry fuel efficiency, though the effects won't be seen on our roads until 2022. It’s ludicrous that governments gave in to truckmakers’ condition to ban innovation for as long as possible. In an industry that sorely needs more competition, especially on fuel efficiency, Europe should now follow the US example and set ambitious fuel efficiency standards for lorries. But how much safer lorries will really be and when they’ll be allowed all depends on a new law that is still in the drafting stage. The Commission should now press ahead and present ambitious truck safety rules by 2016 at the latest. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that we really cannot afford to to let pass.”

Renaud Muselier, a French centre-right MEP from the European People's Party (EPP), said:

"We fought for the introduction of a deadline that would give the whole sector enough time to prepare for the implementation of these new rules. This will allow us to maintain fair competition between manufacturers and protect jobs in the industry, which are so important right across France."

The lead negotiator in the European Parliament, Austrian MEP Jörg Leichtfried (Socialists & Democrats), said: 

"The directive approved today is much stronger than the weak proposal put forward by the Commission. The attempt to further liberalise cross-border operations was rejected by both Parliament and Council, which means that the text of the current directive will remain. This is a good compromise, given the initial controversy on the issue. This directive not only limits the size and weight of trucks on EU roads but it also promotes combined road-rail or road-ship transport operations for standard 45-foot containers and encourages a review of existing provisions on combined transport."

The S&D spokesperson on transport in the European Parliament, Ismail Ertug MEP, said:

"Our group has achieved its main goals in this directive, even if the negotiations were hard both within the Parliament and then with member states represented in the Council. But we made sure that there will be no general EU-wide permission for the ' gigaliners' to circulate. We have set the framework for greener and safer truck cabins. These cabins will not only reduce CO2 emissions through improved aerodynamics, but they will allow for a wider field of vision through the installation of bigger windshields, thus improving safety for drivers."

"We regret that the Council insisted on delaying the introduction of the improved cabins until at least 2020 for purely economic reasons. These new cabins will have a huge impact on our way towards the EU's ambitious 'vision zero-zero road fatalities' by 2050. But at least we managed to counterbalance those lobbies who wanted to delay the introduction even further!"

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said:

"Too many lives have been lost on our roads due to unsafe lorry designs. These small changes will make an enormous difference by helping to get rid of the dangerous blind spots that cause so many accidents with pedestrians and cyclists. I will now be keeping up the pressure to ensure that these safer designs are proposed and implemented as soon as possible."

British Cycling campaigns manager Martin Key said:

“Improving HGV safety is a key aspect of British Cycling’s #ChooseCycling manifesto and we welcome today’s developments. HGVs are involved in nearly 20% of all cycling fatalities across Great Britain, but make up only 6% of road traffic. This cannot continue. These amendments to EU rules will demonstrably improve the safety of both pedestrians and cyclists on Britain’s roads and play an important role in changing our transport habits to the benefit of us all.”

Merja Kyllönen, a Finnish MEP from the leftist GUE/NGL group in the European Palriament, said:

"So-called mega-trucks have given rise to a certain amount of fear and panic. Personally, I was concerned that we would not be able to preserve certain exceptions which are allowed for Nordic countries, where traffic flows differ significantly from the more congested central and southern European countries; that is why it was important that certain regions in the EU are able to maintain their current solutions. We must bear in mind that the idea behind the proposal was to make heavy vehicles in Europe safer, more energy efficient and above all with lower CO2 emissions and we have achieved this. With the bigger trucks, we can also achieve considerable reductions in logistical costs."

Karen Vancluysen, Secretary General of Polis, the network of cities and regions working together for innovative transport solutions, said:

“The newly adopted rules represent a strong incentive for a safer transport environment for vulnerable road users and cars as well as for the wider economy. Improved safety, means lives will be saved while insurance premiums for hauliers would decrease. Moreover, at a time where the European Commission foresees strong EU actions in favour of the energy union market, these rules will substantially cut CO2 emissions and will translate into much-needed fuel savings, reducing our international energy dependence and improving the environment." 

"But truck makers should start producing new designs as soon as possible to have a direct impact on safety and energy. In that perspective, not only does the binding implementation by 2022 of the new rules not reflect the EU2020 political objectives, it also gives a negative signal toward the road safety package in terms of targets to be achieved in an ambitious timeline that will be published by the European commission by the end of this year.”

The EU’s weights and dimensions directive was revised in 1996, but its provisions date back to the 1980s.

It codifies rules that heavy goods vehicles must comply with for road safety reasons.

The new proposals result from a European Commission review of the directive’s provisions as announced in the 2011 White Paper on Transport.

The rules should be adapted to facilitate the introduction of more aerodynamic vehicles which limit CO2 emissions and energy use, and better reflect new intermodal transport standards.

  • Spring 2015: Council to formally adopt the new rules
  • 2019: Deadline for EU countries to transpose the new rules into their legislation
  • 2022: New lorry designs become mandatory

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