Plans to introduce longer HGVs splits industry

10 May 2023

The UK government has authorised the use of larger HGVs for goods transportation in a bid to “slash road emissions and support supply chains”.

The new rules permit HGVs to reach up to 18.55m long – 2.05m more than lorries currently on the roads.

Longer semi-trailers (LSTs) will move the same volume of goods as existing trailers but take 8% fewer journeys to do so, and they will remove one standard-size trailer off the road for every 12 trips.

The government claimed this will save 70,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and said it will boost the UK economy by £1.4bn.

Roads minister Richard Holden said: “Everyone around the country depends on our haulage sector for their everyday needs – from loo rolls to sausage rolls – and a strong, resilient supply chain is key to the government’s priority to grow the economy.”

LSTs will still be subject to the same 44-tonne weight limit as standard length HGVs, but are expected to cause less wear on the roads than conventional lorries.

However, Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) said the government hasn’t considered the threat this poses to pedestrians and other road users. 

A CBT spokesperson said: “This is a deeply retrograde step which will do nothing to tackle carbon emissions or air pollution and will disadvantage parallel rail freight routes. There is already a significant problem with lorries causing damage to pavements, street furniture and parked cars, not to mention the danger to other road users and pedestrians.”

The group said the government should instead invest in rail, for which, it claimed, one freight train can deliver the same as 129 lorries and remove them from roads.

The move followed an 11-year trial to ensure LSTs can be safely driven on UK roads. The government claimed the trial found that personal injury collisions involved 61% fewer LSTs than conventional lorries. 

Freight groups praised the announcement, with Logistics UK’s senior policy manager of road freight regulation, Chris Yarsley, claiming LSTs are cost-efficient and will support UK supply chains.

Yarsley said: “The introduction of LSTs into general service will increase the scope and scale of the goods which our industry is able to transport, increasing efficiencies and reducing the environmental impact of delivering for the UK’s economy.  

“Over the past few years of the trial, our members have proved that LSTs provide operators with a cost-efficient, environmentally prudent alternative to conventional vehicles and our members remain committed to rolling them out across the wider industry as soon as possible.”

The Road Haulage Association welcomed the news, and called for the government to go further by allowing these longer HGVs to carry 48 tonnes of goods. “This will be increasingly important when we roll out zero-emission trucks to compensate for the increased weight from batteries,” a spokesperson said.

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