Improving the Sustainability of Road Freight Transport by Relaxing Truck Size and Weight Restrictions

Improving the Sustainability of Road Freight Transport by Relaxing Truck Size and Weight Restrictions

Alan McKinnon (Heriot-Watt University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4852-4.ch071
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Increasing legal limits on the size and weight of trucks allows companies to achieve a higher degree of load consolidation. This reduces the total number of vehicle-kilometres required to distribute a given quantity of goods, saving money and reducing environmental impacts. Proposals to legalise longer and heavier vehicles, (LHVs) have, nevertheless, generated intense debate, particularly in Europe where they are strongly resisted by railway and environmental organisations. This chapter reviews recent studies on this subject, presents an analytical framework and focuses on three critical issues: the extent to which loads can be consolidated in LHVs, their effect on the freight modal split and the possibility that the resulting reduction in road freight costs will stimulate additional traffic growth. Most of the recent studies support the development of LHVs, particularly those based on actual experience of their use in countries such as Australia, Sweden and the United States.
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A Brief History Of Lhvs In Europe

LHVs with lengths in excess of 20 metres and gross weights of over 50 tonnes have been operating in Scandinavia for over 20 years. Sweden, for example, set a 24 metre length limit for trucks in 1968 and allowed them to run at weights up to 51.4 tonnes in 1974 (Vierth, 2008). At the time of Sweden and Finland’s accession to the EU in 1996, special provision had to be made to allow these countries to continue to operate these vehicles which were much bigger and heavier than those permitted elsewhere in Europe. An EU Directive (96/53) was approved which granted all EU member states the right to operate longer vehicles so long as they conformed to the standard modular dimensions in existence at that time. This has since become known as the European Modular System (EMS). The main objectives of the directive were to avoid a proliferation of vehicle dimensions and promote the harmonisation of modules that could be transferred between modes. Although the 96/53 Directive allowed member states other than Sweden and Finland to legalise LHVs for use within their national borders, no country did so until recently.

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