Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Will Shiers, has been reporting and been frustrated by the battle for high productivity trucks in the UK for some time.
The maximum weight and length of articulated truck and trailers permitted on standard licences in the UK is just 44 tonnes and 16.5 metres, while drawbars (truck and dog) can go up to 18.75 metres.
Sweden and Finland have long allowed larger combinations on their roads. These 60-tonne 25.25 metre outfits generally consist of a 3-axle rigid with converter dolly and standard 13.6 metre semi-trailer, or a B-double consisting of a prime mover, a short trailer, and a 13.6 metre trailer. The vehicles are now also being trialled elsewhere in Europe, including the Netherlands and parts of Germany.
In 2006, the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) launched a study into the possibility of bringing such vehicles to Britain. In addition to the Scandinavian-spec trucks, it also looked at the feasibility of 11-axle, 34 metre, 82-tonners. The project would describe the vehicles as Longer Heavier Vehicles (LHVs), which if you ask me, was just ridiculous.
Why give them a name that would guarantee to enrage the truck-hating general public? Surely ‘environmentally-friendly’ or ‘high productivity’ would have been better. Anyway, blaming the need for infrastructure changes, and not wanting to pee off the rail lobby, in 2008 the plug was permanently pulled on LHVs.
But one man who won’t give up on the dream is Dick Denby, chairman of Denby Transport, located in Lincoln in the east of England. Back in 2002 he built a 25.25 metre B-double, which he christened Eco-Link. In 2009, he famously attempted to drive it on public roads, using a loophole in the law, but was turned around by the police as he exited his yard.
Ten years on and Denby is still championing the cause, shouting about the environmental and productivity benefits of his truck, and actively pushing for a trial to allow 2,000 Eco-Links to operate on UK roads. The DfT however believes that demand for the B-double would be ‘weak’ and Denby is currently seeking to gather support from operators willing to take part in such a trial.
Having ruled against LHVs in 2008, in a surprise move four years later, the DfT announced details of a longer semi-trailer (LST) trial. Some 1,800 licences were issued for an equal mix of 14.6 metre and 15.65 metre trailers, as opposed to the 13.6 metre industry standard. Initially the take-up was slow, especially with the shorter 14.6 metre trailers. GVWs remained at 44 tonnes, which meant that LSTs certainly didn’t suit all applications.
In 2017, in order to make the final results of the study ‘more robust’, the trial was extended for a further five years, and another 1,000 licences were added to the mix. At this point the DfT published its interim findings.
Of the 2,800 LST allocations available, 2,600 have been granted, and 1,939 are on the road. So far 3.6 million journeys have been completed, equating to 443 million km travelled. To date 28,000 tonnes of CO2 and 141 tonnes of NOx have been saved, with these figures expecting to rise to 67,000 tonnes and 336 tonnes respectively by 2027.
On a per km basis, LSTs have been involved in around 70 per cent fewer personal injury collisions and casualties than the UK articulated average.