The long truck: Successful in field trials in Germany
The field trials involving long trucks are currently ongoing with the scientific support from the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) to examine in detail what effects are expected on the environment, infrastructure and transport systems due to the use of long trucks. As a result, the arguments in favor of and against the long truck should be weighed up carefully on the basis of practical experience. The results from the investigations were published in an interim report in September 2014. They confirm the positive expectations and underscore that long trucks are safe, environmentally friendly and economic when used in road transport.
One long truck replaces on average 1.56 conventional truck journeys in the field trial. This means that two long trucks replace about three conventional truck/trailer units. The field trial demonstrates that using long trucks can achieve cost savings of about 25 percent per transported tonne or per transport unit. The CO2 emissions decrease in proportion to the reduction in fuel consumption. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions decrease – that is one of the important motivating factors in using longer trucks on roads.
The braking distance of a long truck is shorter than that of a conventional truck. The gross vehicle weight rating does not increase, as a result of which there is no need for braking additional weight. Quite the contrary: a long truck has more axles for applying greater braking effort. The BASt study measured a braking distance for a long truck of 36 meters from a speed of 80 km/h to stationary. A standard truck produced the distance of 44 meters in the study.
Further results are:
- For the road infrastructure there is no expectation for additional maintenance requirements due to the increased number of axles on long trucks.
- It was not possible to observe any technical vehicle problems under the general conditions of the field trial.
- There were no signs of greater stress or increased psychological strain on the drivers of long trucks.
Long trucks are not an alternative to transporting goods by rail either. Quite the contrary: Both means of transport supplement one another. Long trucks and all the load units transported on them can be used in combined transport, as a result of which they promote multimodal transport. Fears that greater loading capacity might migrate from rail to long trucks are unjustified, according to the findings of the BASt as well. With a gross vehicle weight rating of 40 tonnes, the payload of the long truck would be reduced by between three and eight tonnes due to the additional vehicle equipment (dolly axle, additional trailer). With its volume orientation, the long truck is thus exclusively aimed at increasing efficiency when transporting light, high-value goods and general cargo, in combination with a payload reduction. This market segment does not correspond to the performance profile of railways, since by its very nature it has typical requirements involving flexibility and speed. As a result, transferring goods from the rails to the road would not be economical when using long trucks. Consequently, long trucks are not expected to have any negative effects on the transport of goods by rail either.
In order to further verify and supplement the insights already gained from the field trial, the German federal states that have not yet participated in the field trial should now join in the process. With active involvement in the field trial, more companies would have the opportunity to test the vehicles in practical applications under the defined general conditions of the field trial. The dimensions and weights already successfully tested in the field trial should also apply to long trucks in future: A combination of vehicle modules that does not exceed a maximum length of 25.25 meters. The gross weight of long trucks should not exceed 40 tonnes in regular operation, or 44 tonnes when used as feeder and completion delivery for combined transport.
Long trucks must be able to operate on the existing infrastructure safely and without causing damage. As a result, they should be used in future predominantly on autobahns and federal highways, so as to make road transport even more efficient there. Long trucks are not intended for urban delivery transport. As a result, a network should be defined that basically comprises federal autobahns and all suitable federal highways. Other route sections and roads should be authorized in a positive network on request, following careful examination of the driving suitability based on uniform nationwide criteria. Experience from other European countries should be taken into account when defining the approved route network. The general conditions already successfully tested in the field trial should apply to the technical equipment of long trucks and the qualification of drivers. This means:
- Drivers must have been in possession of the category CE driving license for at least five uninterrupted years, and possess more than five years of professional experience in commercial road haulage or own-account transport.
- Long trucks must meet minimum technical requirements including automatic cruise control systems, lane guard systems, automatic axle load monitoring, electronically controlled brake systems, rear-mounted camera systems, contour markings and lane holding lights on the trailer.