Thursday, September 8, 2016

Government Trial for Bigger Road Haulage Freight Trailers Looks a Success

It Seems Size Does Matter to the Long Distance Lorry Driver with a Semi
Shipping News Feature
UK – The ten year trial launched by the government in 2012 permitting up to 1,800 longer semi-trailers to operate under Vehicle Special Orders (VSOs) granted by the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) has seen the publication of its annual report studying the conclusions so far. Two of the bodies linked to road borne logistics in the country, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA), have expressed their views that the report only confirms that the longer vehicles could make a significant contribution to the efficiency of the industry if made more widely available.

The trailers are up to 2.05 metres longer than the standard 13.6m units commonly seen on the roads in this country and with 98% of the allowed 1,800 now on the road the trial shows that with over 200 million kilometres travelled, around 90,000 trips have potentially been saved. The report demonstrates there has been no significant increase in safety risk and indeed some evidence that they have actually proved safer, particularly when one considers they equate to less actual truck movements. RHA director of policy Jack Semple commented:

“Road haulage efficiency is vital to the economy and keeping the UK competitive. After the Brexit vote, there is an increased awareness that we should be embracing every opportunity for productive innovation, where it is safe to do so. This report confirms the value of longer semi-trailers, it also confirms the RHA’s prediction that there would be no great rush for the new lengths and that take-up would be gradual, with 15.65 metre trailers much the more popular length.

“There are now 151 operators in the trial. But it is clear from our members that both existing longer semi-trailer operators and other hauliers could make good use of more of these trailers, and the government should release more permits to allow them to do so. It should allocate permits, as before, in a way that gives equal opportunity to smaller firms.”

Later this month, the RHA and its members will be promoting the industry during National Lorry Week, September 19-24 and its spokesman said there would be no better time for ministers make an announcement of additional permits, highlighting the role of the industry to the economy and the drive for innovation. Meanwhile, on a point of detail, the RHA renews its call to the Department for Transport to discontinue the efficiency reporting element of the trial from the start of the new reporting year in January 2017, as it says this is an area where nothing new is being learnt.

The FTA was also supportive of the trial but sounded a note of caution saying it is essential that use of the longer vehicles is monitored to ensure that they can be used safely, with Karen Dee, FTA’s Director of Policy, saying:

“We are pleased that once again the report is demonstrating that LSTs have a really good safety record. In addition, the improved efficiencies that they offer are reducing the overall number of lorry journeys and thus reducing fuel use and the associated emissions. These types of developments will continue to play an essential part in efforts to tackle climate change and improve air quality.

”Almost three quarters of goods movements are carried by road rather than by rail or water. We need to maximise the use of rail and water freight as part of making the UK’s supply chain as efficient, clean and safe as possible, but they can never replace road that is why we need to maximise the efficiency of road freight as well as the other modes.”

In some ways it is no surprise that the figures emanating from the report are so favourable, the companies trialling the longer trailers are obviously those that can make best use of their increased capacity. While of huge benefit if carrying a load of foam insulation, there would be no value if the commodity was, for example, ceramic tiles. Equally from the safety aspect the initial vehicles are brand new and doubtless being pulled by the most experienced drivers on their fleets but despite any such points it would seem that size does in fact matter when it comes to road haulage.

We started covering this story from well before the trials actually started and at first there was little enthusiasm from hauliers, principally due to the length restrictions on 50% of the new vehicles, however the situation has now matured and with the quota of long trailers now taken up there is good reason to predict that the country’s regulations on this subject might well see a change at the termination of the trial, if not before.

Photo: Scottish haulier Burns Express was one who took the opportunity to use longer trailers.