Thursday, April 3, 2014

Freight Truck and Intermodal Design Changes in the Name of Safety

EU to Vote on Mandatory Measures to Preserve Lives and Reduce Pollution
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – UK – The vote by the European Parliament scheduled for April 15 may well herald a new era of truck design following last month’s report from the EU Committee on Transport and Tourism which has recommended design rule changes intended to make it easier for drivers to see pedestrians and cyclists and improve bodywork streamlining to cut pollutant emissions. Intermodal specifications are also liable to change slightly thus impacting on rail freight as well as the road haulage sector with draft rules allowing trucks for use in combined road-rail or road-ship transport operations to be made 15 cm longer, to make it easier to load standard 45-foot containers.

The draft rules would allow truck cabins to be made longer if designed to cut emissions, e.g. by improving aerodynamics; or to prevent accidents, for example by reducing blind spots or making the cab more rounded to push people clear thus avoiding running over them. Aerodynamic flaps up to 50 cm wide would be allowed at the rear of the truck to reduce drag and emissions and to encourage the use of less polluting vehicles, many of which are heavier and hence less commercially attractive than traditional ones, trucks and buses with low-carbon alternatives, could exceed the current maximum weight by up to one tonne, depending on the weight of the alternative system. MEP Jörg Leichtfried (S&D, AT), commented:

"The draft rules would allow designers to put better trucks on the road that improve road safety and reduce environmental damage. On the issue of ‘megatrucks’ Parliament has always asked the European Commission for a proper impact assessment. By deleting the parts of the legislative proposal on cross-border circulation for longer vehicles, we reinforce this position. The Commission will be asked to review the situation and report back to the Parliament and the Council by 2016.”

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)'s London Metropolitan Branch has hailed the result of the Committee’s ballot saying the adjustments to the Vehicle Weights & Dimensions Directive would mean lorry cabs can be redesigned to reduce blind spots, thus improving the direct vision of the driver. Chair of the IOSH London Metropolitan Branch Nigel Burgess, a qualified HGV driver and also a cyclist, commented:

“Cycling in London should be an enjoyable and efficient way to move around our capital city. Sadly we have seen cycling-related deaths increase as more and more road users are vying for the same space. The Directive is not only good news for cyclists; it is also great news for lorry drivers who have many pressures and distractions to deal with during their working day.

“Drivers are professionals with their own families and do not deserve to suffer the psychological stress of colliding with a cyclist or pedestrian simply because of poor vehicle design. Whilst mandatory implementation for new lorries may not occur immediately, this news is a major step in the right direction to reduce deaths and major injuries on the road."

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has been pushing for amendments to the EU Directive for some time. In January the Mayor's Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, and Olympic gold medallist, Chris Boardman, joined forces with safety campaigners in Brussels to lobby the European Parliament on the issue. The new regulations are likely to be waved through on schedule later this month and will include features such as energy absorbing crash systems all of which are likely to be made mandatory on new trucks by 2022.

A spate of recent accidents involving cyclists has resulted in several initiatives aiming to assist truck drivers and cyclists see the problems each face when travelling in an urban environment.

Photo: The multi award winning Chameleon Concept Truck designed by Haishan Deng