New EU legislation will make trucks greener and safer

The European Parliament has updated the rules relating to road haulage to allow trucks to be longer and heavier – providing they are also made more fuel-efficient and safer.

If the bill passes through the final stages of approval then a number of changes can be expected over the next few years.

European flags in front  commission on Brussels.Under the 1996 Weight and Dimensions Directive, the European Parliament imposed a weight and length limit on trucks which use the road infrastructure in the EU.

Changes to this directive will allow manufacturers to use new designs which can exceed these weight and length limits, as long as they improve the trucks overall environmental impact and safety.

Chief amongst the provisions is one which would offer manufacturers an additional weight allowance of up to one tonne if the additional weight is used to install alternative-fuel engines and more environmentally friendly components.

Advocates believe that this and other rules will encourage manufacturers and operators to take up greener technologies.

Low carbon engines and transmissions are often heavier than their more fuel-hungry cousins, meaning that truckers are penalised by the EU for choosing the more environmentally friendly option. The updated regulations would change this.

Apart from the additional weight allowance there are a number of other changes which will help promote environmental aims and road safety. Some of the most important changes are as follows:

  • More rounded cabs which will make it easier for drivers to see cyclists and pedestrians while at the same time reducing drag and increasing fuel efficiency
  • A deflective truck shape designed to push cars and other traffic clear of incidents in the event of a crash
  • Aerodynamic flaps fitted on the back of trucks to help reduce fuel consumption

EU member states will have to institute the rules within two years of the final revision of the directive. The changes to cab design will enter into force three years after the relevant safety rules for putting newly design trucks on the market have been adopted.

New rules will help promote innovation

It is thought the new legislation will encourage a new bout of innovation among truck manufacturers.

An MEP guiding the legislation through the EU parliament said: “The draft rules would allow designers to put better trucks on the road that improve road safety and reduce environmental damage.”

So far it is unclear how long it will take for manufacturers to respond to the new challenges. Trucks tend to have a product lifecycle of between 10 and 15 years so these changes could still be some way off development.

Many are convinced though that our motorways could soon look very different. The cubed lorries we are all so used to seeing and driving could soon be a thing of the past.

All of these changes still have to be formally approved by the Council of the EU, but council approval is normally considered a formality.