Friday, February 22, 2019

European Commission Moves to Impact Road Haulage Industry Truck Operators

Better Road Infrastructure and Lower Lorry Emissions on the Agenda
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – A new deal agreed this week to extend minimum standards for road infrastructure now awaits official approval from both the European Parliament and Member States. The move comes at the same time the European Commission is turning its attention to truck emissions and the safety of vulnerable road users, all things which in their own ways will have major impacts on the road haulage industry.

The provisional deal on new infrastructure legislation will transfer the current rules applicable to the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), the major arterial roads throughout the Community, to lesser highways. Currently existing EU rules only require governments to carry out regular road safety audits, identify high-risk sites and prioritise safety when building new major roads

The revised version of the rules agreed would extend these measures to all motorways, all ‘primary roads’ and all non-urban roads that receive EU funding. The move was welcomed by such as the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), although it, and other such organisations, had been lobbying for all main urban and rural roads to be covered. However EU policymakers representing the European Commission, Parliament and Member States did not agree to extend the mandatory rules that far, though countries will still be able to go further if they wish.

According to research for the European Commission, the proposed measures could save 3,200 lives and prevent more than 20,000 serious injuries over the period 2020-2030. Road authorities will be able to choose some low-risk roads, or roads with little traffic to opt-out of the legislation. However, those decisions will be subject to oversight from the European Commission, who will also publish a map of roads covered by the rules. Ellen Townsend, Policy Director of the European Transport Safety Council said:

“This legislation contains the introduction of new procedures that will lead to better road design, better safety management, and more high risk sites being treated. Ultimately we would like to see this approach applied to every road in the EU, but this deal is nevertheless an important step forward.”

Trucks must be built using ‘Direct Vision’ principles and a host of advanced features introduced over time to ‘help drivers to gradually get accustomed to the new features and should enhance public trust and acceptance in the transition toward autonomous driving.’ For the first time, the legislation will also require road management authorities to take into account the safety of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists when planning and managing road infrastructure. Mandatory safety features proposed to this end include:

Intelligent speed assistance; alcohol interlock installation facilitation; driver drowsiness and attention warning; advanced driver distraction warning; emergency stop signal; reversing detection; accident data recorder, this last added by MEPs (under the Commission proposal only cars and vans would have to be equipped with it).

The EU has also agreed that common specifications for road signs and road markings across Europe should be developed. A high standard of road signs and road markings across Europe could be an important issue for higher levels of automation, when cars increasingly take away control from the driver under certain circumstances. Once approved, this legislation will replace the current General Vehicle Safety Regulation and the Pedestrian Protection Regulation.

And so to the ever controversial subject of pollution from trucks. At the end of last week, DEFRA published its statistical release for emission of air pollutants in the UK from 1970 to 2017, which makes for some interesting reading. Overall emissions of NOx have fallen by 72% since 1970, while from road transport, annual emissions fell 25% between 2010 and 2017. Between 2016 and 2017, NOx emission from road transport fell from 49% to 32% respectively.

In addition, the transport sector used to emit the most particulate matter (PM) but technological improvements now mean that domestic combustion is the major source (hence the latest target of wood burning stoves) with 27% and 41% of PM10 and PM2.5 respectively, highlighting the great effort and investment that has gone into reducing emissions in the automotive industry.

Under the new proposals from the European Commission, Heavy Goods Vehicle manufacturers will need to cut new vehicle CO2 emissions by 15% by 2025 and 30% by 2030. In addition, by 2025, 2% of new trucks must be zero or low-emission. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) describes the new targets as highly demanding, especially as their implementation does not depend solely on the commercial vehicle industry and the baseline for the targets is still unknown. It also asks how they can be achieved with hardly any relevant infrastructure currently in place.

Photo: Members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) voting this week to approve a range of new vehicle safety standards initially proposed by the European Commission in May last year.