Railway communities making their last stand to reject the change to “truck” directive

2024/05/20 at 12:35 AM

EU railway communities are trying to close the door to regulations that open new opportunities to increase the competitiveness of road transport. This is a pending amendment to the EU directive on the weight and dimensions of trucks, which assumes the authorisation of mega trucks for use on European roads. Its draft was published by the European Commission in July last year, and it was adopted by the European Parliament in March of the current year.

Source: Allianz pro Schiene

An attempt at corrections in the directive that is still being processed (the European Council will still comment on this matter) was made based on the conclusions of a survey conducted by the European Rail Freight Association (ERFA) together with other associations CER, UIP, UIRR and UNIFE, which has just been published.

“The findings of this survey show clearly that when informed on the effects of mega trucks on EU roads, European citizens are concerned about the consequences on both their safety and environment. These citizens support safer, more efficient solutions like Combined Transport, which can contribute to the reduction of road congestion”, says Alberto Mazzola, CER Executive Director.


Being adopted on 25 March of the current year, the EP’s proposal to revise the regulations on trucks used in road transport provides for, among other things, extending the vehicle set from 18.35 to 25.25 metres or even in some countries and under certain conditions – up to 32 metres. It allows such a set to transport an additional six tonnes of cargo, as well as a load of up to 12.5 tonnes on the drive axle.

Railway organisations lobbied against such changes. It was argued that this would allow mega trucks and “gigaliners” to dominate the European transport sector in terms of prices and capacity. This will undermine the EU’s objectives to decarbonise the transport sector as it runs counter to the intention to promote the electrification of road transport. Meanwhile, it leads to an intermodal shift of loads, from rail to road, although the European Commission already assumed the opposite process in the 2009 White Paper on Transport.

These arguments clashed with the opinions of other logistics circles. For example, the European Freight Forwarders Association (CLECAT) appealed to EU decision-makers to adopt the directive as soon as possible because it will allow longer and heavier vehicles (LHVs, also known as mega trucks or gigaliners) to travel between member states. And this is essential to ensure cheap transport in the conditions of rising energy prices and the widespread lack of drivers in Europe. In fact, two LHVs replace three trucks. And the EC itself estimates that the demand for transport between 2010 and 2040 will increase by 49 per cent.

New arguments

ERFA’s current appeal to EU decision-makers emphasises social aspects and appeals to wider public opinion, not lobbyists. The survey was carried out in nine member states (FR, DE, BE, AT, IT, PL, HU, ES and RO) between 18-23 April. 8,037 online interviews were conducted.

A key finding from the study is that the mega truck “issue” was largely unknown to most respondents (14 per cent recognised the issue, 34 per cent had vague knowledge, and 52 per cent admitted they were unaware of it), the authors say. Only after receiving information about the characteristics of these vehicles, “a majority considered the use of mega trucks to be negative, expressing concerns on the impact on road infrastructure, congestion, road safety and noise. Close to 85 per cent recognised the safety risks that mega trucks can pose to drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, and the impact on public budgets”.

Solution to the problem

The authors of the survey also point to important arguments regarding the future of railways. As stated by 75 per cent of survey participants, the introduction of mega trucks could reduce freight transport by rail, and in member states where rail transport is more developed (including combined transport operations), six of 10 citizens believe that these countries should not allow the movement of mega trucks.

At the same time, 94 per cent of participants considered it important (half as very important) to promote combined transport as an alternative to the introduction of mega trucks because it would significantly reduce congestion and safety risks. And around this last argument, railway organisations are building an alternative solution, as indicated by Director Mazzoli’s statement quoted above.

ERFA Secretary General Conor Feighan said: ” This survey highlights that there is a convergence between the concerns expressed by a large majority of EU citizens against longer and heavier trucks on EU roads and the opinion of the rail freight sector expressed against the revision of the Weights & Dimensions Directive as it stands today. Member States must acknowledge this reality and adopt consistent transport policies favouring the greenest and most energy-efficient modes”.

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