The European Commission has clarified transport rules that should see longer trucks and “eco-combi” super trucks allowed to operate cross-border where EU Member States allow entry.
EU transport rules provide restrictions on the weights and dimensions of road vehicles, but after reviewing the rules, EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas said last week that he believes the rules do allow Member States to choose to exceed the standards if their infrastructure and market conditions permit.
He said the EU Directives of 1985 and 1996 had intended to prevent Member States from keeping foreign vehicles out of their markets if they were below the maximum size, but it did not prevent Member States accepting vehicles larger than that maximum.
Eco-combi trucks or “road trains” are road haulage vehicles with more than one trailer, which can carry a bigger load per journey. They are generally up to 25 metres long and up to 60 tonnes in weight.
An exemption to the Directive allowing modular vehicles, designed for the entry into the European Union of Finland and Sweden, where they were already in use, also applies to cross-border traffic, Kallas said.
The EU transport commissioner said any other reading of the rules could mean truckers uncoupling their vehicles at a border, “to reattach them a few meters later”.
“Such an interpretation would amount to reinstating artificial obstacles at borders in contradiction with both past and current policy aims,” said Kallas.
The 1996 transport directive is set to be revised soon, with a Commission proposal expected in late 2012, to address issues such as new aerodynamic additions for road vehicles, Kallas added and suggested this process could also help to reinforce legal language around the use of longer trucks across EU borders.
European shipping associations EVO and Transport and Logistics Netherlands said they were pleased with the decision by the EU transport commissioner to reinterpret the rules on longer trucks.
“After many years of discussion, there is now clarity on the interpretation of EU law,” the organisations said in a joint statement.
“Despite the ecocombi traffic operating in Scandinavian countries for many years, the Commission has previously indicated that on the basis of the (1996) Directive that it is not allowed internationally. This has now been reviewed, and it was decided to allow the use of ecocombis between two countries that agree to it.”
Eco-combies have been in use in the Netherlands since the year 2000. EVO and TLN said there were now 750 in operation there, along with “thousands” in Scandinavia.
Other countries have also been trialling use of eco-combi vehicles, with Denmark allowing 450 trucks in a trial that suggested they could bring a 15% reduction in climate change emissions where two eco-combi vehicles replaced three regular trucks.
“Eco-combis and longer or heavier lorries (LHVs) enable up to 50% more cargo than ordinary trucks. The deployment of these vehicles therefore offers major advantages for the environment and logistics companies.”
The shipping organisations pointed out that the decision of Commissioner Kallas could still be appealed by opponents through the European Court. “TLN and EVO do not expect this will lead to a different interpretation,” they stated.
Source: Post&Parcel/EU Commission/EVO