Facts and arguments concerning eco-trucks
- Two long trucks replace three journeys with conventional trucks
- Long trucks do not carry more weight
- Genuine eco-trucks: fuel and CO2 savings of up to 25 per cent have been confirmed
- No modal shift from rail to roads due to long trucks
- Impact on roads and bridges is kept down
Introduction: increasing freight traffic secures prosperity and jobs
Freight traffic in Germany will continue to increase markedly. The German Government expects a rise of around 40 per cent by 2030 compared with the year 2010. This growth is symptomatic of the great dynamism and the success of our national economy. Smooth freight traffic is essential to an economy that is modern and globally networked. Mobility and transportation thus secure prosperity and jobs in Germany.
Yet the growth in freight traffic must occur in a sustainable manner with little impact on the climate. To achieve that, all modes of transport have to become continually more efficient. Bottlenecks in the infrastructure must be remedied, modern traffic management systems applied, and the various modes of transport must be even more closely networked. Long trucks can also make a major contribution on the roads. That means fewer trucks can carry the same volume, so the burden on the motorways and the impact on the infrastructure will be kept down. In addition, fuel consumption will fall, and with it the CO2 emissions.
Field trial with long trucks
The field trial using long trucks is intended to reveal in detail what effects can be expected on the environment, infrastructure and transport systems. The vehicles deployed are up to 25.25 metres long and have a total weight of no more than 40 tonnes, or 44 tonnes in combined transport. The field trial has been running since January 2012 on the basis of an exception regulation issued by the Federal Government for a limited period of five years. The field trial will end in December 2016. Early in 2014 the Federal Constitutional Court rejected two applications for judicial review of the legality of the realisation of the exemption regulation.
Turn three into two
Two long trucks replace three normal truck-trailer combinations. This is possible because one long truck can carry up to 50 per cent more volume than a conventional truck. In fact the interim report from the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) shows that on average two long truck trips replace somewhat more than three trips by conventional trucks.
Total weight is not increased: maximum of 40 to 44 tonnes
Long trucks do not have a greater permissible maximum weight than conventional trucks. Today’s road freight consists largely of light, but large-volume or bulky goods. In road freight, not the weight but rather the loading volume is the limiting factor for 80% of transports. Therefore just like standard trucks, long trucks manage with a permissible maximum weight of 40 tonnes. In combined transport – that is, when trucks are integrated with shipping or rail – weights of up to 44 tonnes are also allowed for conventional trucks.
Fewer journeys, lower fuel consumption, less CO2
The greater volume in the individual trucks means that fuel consumption and CO2 emissions per unit of transported freight will fall. The current field trial shows that long trucks can carry the same volume using up to 25 per cent less fuel. That reveals long trucks to be genuine eco-trucks.
Rail and long trucks: no modal shifts
Long trucks do not represent a threat to the railways. On the contrary, the two modes of transport dovetail with each other. Eco-trucks can be loaded onto the railways without any problem. With their modular structure, transport wagons and loading equipment are equally suitable for long trucks and standard trucks. Fears that transports will shift from the railways to long trucks are unfounded. In the field trial, long trucks have so far not led to any shifts from rail to the roads.
In the future, rail transport capacity will be needed more urgently than ever. The forecast suggests that freight traffic growth will be even greater on the railways than on the roads (43 per cent vs. 39 per cent). So the railways will experience considerably increased demand.
Long trucks lessen impact on roads and bridges
The long trucks do not place greater burdens on the infrastructure than conventional trucks do. This is because their total weight is distributed over more axles. Whereas in a conventional combination the weight is borne by a maximum of five axles, with a long truck it is usually borne by seven or eight axles. This also means the load is better distributed among the axles. The Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) therefore assumes that the use of long trucks will not increase the need for maintenance work on the infrastructure.
Good braking performance
The braking distance of a long truck travelling at high speed is shorter than that of a conventional truck; since the permissible maximum weight is not greater, the tonnage that has to be brought to a standstill is not increased, either. In fact the opposite is the case. A long truck has more axles where the braking force is applied. A study carried out on behalf of the BASt found that a long truck travelling at 80 km/h had a braking distance of 36 metres to come to a complete stop, and for a standard truck the result was 44 metres. The higher number of braked axles in the long truck made the difference.
Long trucks fit in with the infrastructure
It is frequently claimed that long trucks cannot be deployed with the existing infrastructure. But in fact these vehicles are designed so that they can operate within the existing infrastructure. This is apparent at motorway construction sites, for example, which long trucks can easily navigate. And when it comes to manoeuvring, reversing or docking onto loading ramps, long trucks are exceptionally manoeuvrable. They are thus compatible with terminals, ports and railway stations where freight is loaded from one means of transport onto another.
Highest standards due to modern safety systems
Long trucks should not only be just as safe as conventional combinations, but should actually set higher standards: the extended vehicle combinations are required to be equipped with many available active and passive safety systems. These include the lane departure warning, which prevents the vehicle from drifting off the lane, proximity control, which avoids rear-end collisions, and ESP, ABS and acceleration skid control (ASR). Reflective contour markings, spray protection, and load securing systems are also mandatory. Reversing cameras are prescribed for long trucks to make manoeuvring even safer. Practical experience with the long trucks in the field trial shows that they are smooth and stable on the roads.
The great majority of long trucks operate on the motorways. There it is just as easy to overtake them as it is to overtake normal trucks. In practice it is extremely rare for a car driver to come across a long truck on a two-lane national road and wish to overtake it. According to the BASt interim report, the overtaking manoeuvres observed on two-lane rural roads were not less safe than those involving conventional vehicles.
The drivers are professionals
Long trucks are driven by drivers with proven skill and professionalism. The drivers must have several years of driving experience and not have any points on their driving licence. Furthermore, they have to undergo extra training in vehicle dynamics and load securing. Experience to date shows that after training and familiarisation with the long trucks, the drivers control them just as safely and reliably as conventional trucks. The survey of drivers taking part in the field trial found that they do not experience more stress driving the long trucks than when driving conventional trucks.