The European Parliament voted through amendments last week that finalizes the maximum weights and dimensions for lorries proposed by the European Commission, legislation that should help make trucks safer for pedestrians and cyclists and help reduce CO2 emissions. They will also make the vehicles more comfortable for truck drivers themselves, MEPs and supporters said after the vote.
MEPs, however, rejected plans to allow so-called "mega-trucks" across the EU, instead deciding to leave the decision to each member state. EU lawmakers rejected the possibility for oversized trucks used in trials outside of national borders, and asked the European Commission to come up with an environmental impact study for such vehicles by 2016, before considering further steps.
If member states approve the new legislation, new trucks could become mandatory as of 2022 on European roads. The new design would signal the end of brick-shaped trucks, and introduce a more rounded aerodynamic chassis that would not only increase the driver’s field of vision, but also make collisions with pedestrians or cyclists less deadly, the European Commission said.
These new aerodynamic standards are also aimed at reducing fuel consumption, and thereby greenhouse gas emissions, by 7 to 10 percent, supporters of the legislation explained.
"A brick is the least aerodynamic shape you can imagine. That's why we need to improve the shape of the lorries on our roads," said Siim Kallas, the EU commissioner in charge of transport. "These changes make road transport cleaner and safer. They will reduce hauliers' fuel bills, and give European manufacturers a head-start in designing the truck of the future, a greener truck for the global market," he added.
Mega-trucks are still far from making their way on to Europe’s roads, since the legislation has yet to be negotiated with national governments, which will not happen under the current legislature. Once the negotiations start, many stakeholders fear member states could water down the text. Truck manufacturers have asked for a moratorium on new body designs until at least 2025, in order to safeguard “competitive neutrality”. Green campaigners fear that this will “stifle competitive pressure” by allowing “lorry makers to move all at the same time”.
T&E has accused the UK, Italy and France of blocking the EU’s efforts to move on the new legislation because of “industry-vested interests”.
According to research done by the NGO Transport and Environment (T&E), the redesign would cost between €400 and 1,500 per vehicle, on top of the cost for a new lorry, which is between €80,000 and €100,000. But the “extra purchase cost would be recouped by fuel savings within a year,” it says.
Ministers will now have to come up with their own position, possibly by June, after which negotiations with Parliament will take place, in order to decide on the issue of making the new trucks mandatory, or optional.
Once adopted, the new legislation could be implemented within five to six years, the Commission hopes.
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