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Longer and heavier lorries (LHLs) and the environment

The European transport and environment organisation, T&E is calling on the EU to make road user charges that include the full costs of pollution and congestion a prerequisite for the introduction of longer and heavier lorries, or "gigaliners", which are now being trialled in several European countries.
The European transport and environment organisation, T&E is calling on the EU to make road user charges that include the full costs of pollution and congestion a prerequisite for the introduction of longer and heavier lorries, or "gigaliners", which are now being trialled in several European countries. Its position paper: Longer and heavier lorries (LHLs) and the environment discusses a range of potential impacts arising from longer heavier lorries including noise, congestion, wear and tear on road infrastructure, safety and CO2 emissions. As regards CO2, the paper points out that the main argument used in support of gigaliners is that higher load factors lead to greater efficiency. For very light loads (ie. loads that are bulky and fill the volume before the max. weight is reached), this can represent a reduction of CO2 emissions per tonne/km of up to 25%. They cite a study that found that use of gigaliners for domestic freight transport in the Netherlands would bring a total estimated reduction of approximately 1% of the total CO2 emissions of domestic freight transport (excluding delivery vans). The reduction in emissions is less marked for loads over 50 tonnes. The use of longer and heavier vehicles to transport lighter loads would offer an improvement in emissions compared to standard vehicles, and decrease the environmental differential between road and other transport modes. However, in terms of emissions, railway and waterway transport are better suited for transporting heavier goods. significant impact is expected. The paper also highlights the 'rebound factor.' It argues: 'Studies have found that transport costs per tonne/km can be reduced by 20-25% for relatively light goods on larger HGVs [3,4]. Falling costs per tonne/km with the larger vehicles will lead to increased demand for road transport. Increased demand for road transport would cancel out any environmental gains from the increased efficiency, as well as cancelling out any initial effects on congestion.' The paper also cites a study which finds that a reduction in the relative cost of transporting goods by road (resulting from the use of longer heavier lorries) would increase its competitiveness in relation to sea and rail transport. It warns, 'The European Union must ensure that any approval of longer and heavier trucks does not provide a cost advantage to the road haulage sector at the expense of other modes.'

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