FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
By Kieran Cooke
The European Parliament has voted in favour of changing the design of goods lorries throughout the EU – from their present brick shape to a more streamlined-looking vehicle. The idea is not only to increase fuel efficiency and cut back on CO2 emissions, but also to reduce accidents.
LONDON, 23 March – It’s one of those small steps that could help in the battle against greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Lorry design in the European Union at present is governed by legislation dating back to the mid-1990s, stipulating total maximum lengths for cabs and trailers.
This has resulted in the general adoption by road hauliers of a brick-shaped design for cabs on lorries: by making the cab more upright and shorter, transport companies have more space for goods.
But according to Transport & Environment (T&E), a Brussels-based group which campaigns for more sustainable and environmentally friendly transport policies within the EU, lorries have lagged seriously behind other vehicles in terms of environmental performance over the past 20 years.
“Whilst only three per cent of vehicles (in the EU), lorries account for a quarter of Europe’s road transport emissions. That share is expected to grow as traffic increases further”, it says.
T&E says the brick-shaped design is not only inefficient in terms of fuel consumption – it is also dangerous: “Lorries also have a dreadful safety record: every year 15% of all fatal collisions – around 4,200 deaths – involve lorries.”
About 75% of freight in Europe is delivered by lorry. Studies indicate road freight transport is one of the fastest-growing sources of CO2 emissions in the EU, with emissions from the sector likely to increase by more than 20% over the next 15 years. The EU imports 500 million barrels of oil each year, wortharound €60bn, to power its freight fleet.
European Parliament members say relatively simple changes in design can bring about advances in fuel efficiency and cut back on CO2 emissions. Under the Parliament’s proposals, the brick-shaped cab design would be replaced by a more streamlined, aerodynamic nose. The rear of the vehicle would also have aerodynamic flaps and shaping.
T&E says giving lorries a rounder front and putting in place other improvements could improve fuel economy by between seven and ten per cent. It says a more curved cab front would also give drivers greater visibility, eliminate blind spots and so avoid accidents.
“Today is a good day for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, hauliers and the environment”, said William Todts of T&E following the EU Parliament vote. “This vote brings the end of the brick-shaped cab closer. It’s a key decision that will reduce road deaths and kickstart progress on lorry CO2 emissions after 20 years of stagnation.”
After a spate of fatal accidents involving lorries and cyclists, London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, has joined the call for changes in lorry design.
The era of more fuel-efficient, safer lorries in Europe is likely to be delayed for some time. Hauliers and truck manufacturers object to the costs of design changes. To compensate for the haulage space lost due to any new shapes for lorries, the trucking industry is likely to press for bigger, longer vehicles.
The Parliament’s vote still needs to be confirmed by the full parliamentary body. It then goes forward to be considered by all member states. The brick on wheels could be charging down Europe’s roads for some time yet. – Climate News Network