Friday, November 8, 2013

Freight Forwarders Back Extension to Longer Road Haulage Trailer Trial Whilst Heights Threatened

Decade Long UK Scheme Evolving Despite Some Opposition from Rail Groups Whilst EU Considers Reducing Load Sizes
Shipping News Feature

UK – Following the Department for Transport’s (DfT) decision last year to trial longer semi-trailers for the next decade, a scheme we originally reported in 2011, we hear that only 750 of the allocation of 1,800 permitted vehicles has actually been taken up. Whilst we suspect that this is mainly due to a lack of enthusiasm for the 50% of such trailers which are only one metre longer (the other half were allowed an extra two metres) a recent decision to extend the trial has been greeted with enthusiasm by one of the freight forwarders which operates an independent road haulage fleet.

Expanding the trial will allow operators who were unsuccessful in obtaining longer trailer allocations first time round, a second chance to take part in the trial, and encourage those like Davies Turner aiming to take advantage of changes to its current allocations, and thereby help to ‘green’ the company’s domestic supply chain, by expanding its fleet of 15.65 metre trailers in a move that could take 170 inter-branch feeder trips off Britain’s roads annually.

Each of the two metre longer trailers give an extra 15% volume, taking the cubic capacity up to 120m3, as opposed to the 105m3 of a normal 13.6 metre vehicle. The 4.75 metre overall trailer height (fully compliant since the overnight feeders are only used on UK motorways), and double deck configuration creates an optional second floor that allows the company to make best use of the internal height of the vehicles without risking damage to any cargo which would otherwise be overstowed.

When loaded to capacity, which is always the case on these busy feeder services, Davies Turner’s six 15.65 metre trailers could take as many as 100 feeder trips off the UK’s roads over a 12-month period, according to company estimates. An expansion to ten semi-trailers could see some 170 feeder trips removed annually from the country’s road network. Philip Stephenson, Davies Turner joint Managing Director, is keen to take up the opportunities offered by the scheme and commented:

“The two 15.65 metre long trailers in which we invested some time ago have already saved a good many trips and resulted in fewer vehicles on the motorway thanks to their much greater capacity. We expect to be allocated at least four more and would really like a further six more to service our overnight feeder network connecting Cumbernauld in Scotland’s Central Belt, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Dartford.

“We will use our fleet of longer artics on routes involving volumetric goods. These are cargoes that often cube out and the additional trailer length will allow us to take advantage of the extra six euro pallets of floor space now available per journey. The 15% increase in capacity is a straightforward win-win for us and our clients.

“Our transport managers will be able to cut 15 out of every 100 journeys we now undertake with the smaller, shorter semi-trailers. This will translate into practical benefits for our clients from more efficient haulage of their goods at the same time as we make more effective use of our assets, boosting our drivers’ productivity on a day-to-day basis. Ultimately, the winner is the wider environment as our already fuel-efficient tractor units are used in a much greener manner.”

The ‘longer lorry’ trial will now continue under the parameters explained in the DfT links above despite an amount of opposition unsurprisingly voiced by the rail freight interests which responded to the recent government consultation.

Meanwhile, supporters for the trial are amongst those who spoke out this week on the threat of a European wide height restriction. The Freight Transport Association, FTA Ireland, Road Haulage Association, British Irish Chamber of Commerce, Irish Exporters Association, Irish Road Haulage Association and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, all expressed extreme concern about a suggested amendment in a report by Austrian MEP Jörg Leichtfried, which would prohibit all cross-border movements of vehicles exceeding four metres in height. Ireland has a national height limit of 4.65 metres and the UK imposes no national height restriction.

All leading trade associations from the UK and Ireland, the group wrote a letter to the European Parliament’s Transport Committee asking it not to damage highly efficient trade flows between the two countries by restricting vehicle heights. The letter appealed to the Transport Committee to accept the European Commission’s proposal to permit cross border movements of vehicles that exceed the maximum dimensions if they are already permitted in neighbouring member states. It is estimated that up to 90% of the Irish fleet would be affected by such a height restriction, with serious cost increases.

Whilst it is common practice in most EU Member States to impose a national height requirement of four metres, both the UK and Ireland apply a derogation as permitted under EU law and have never imposed such a requirement on their domestic operators. Using this flexibility, valuable trade flows have developed with vehicles that exceed the four metre limit – which are often known as ‘high cube trailers’.

The letter, alerting the Committee to what the parties consider a real threat posed to trade by the report which was presented to it this week, apparently received strong support from key members of the Transport Committee and from the European Commission and Theo de Pencier, FTA’s Chief Executive, commented:

“We are extremely concerned about the adverse effect this would have on trade and the environment. One major UK retailer, with operations in the UK and Ireland, has estimated that a four metre height restriction would result in 3,000 extra trailer movements, adding 740,000 additional road miles and generating an extra one million kilogrammes of carbon dioxide per year.”