Following the recent announcement by Transport Minister – Stephen Hammond, that the government is to make a change to the allocation process of permits to operate longer semi-trailers permits under the current 10 year trial in the UK – the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has voiced its support.
The longer semi-trailer permits allow operators to run articulated lorries up to 2 metres longer than existing, standard articulated vehicles. This length gives an equivalent deck space to the current standard drawbar (rigid truck and trailer) combinations.
The changes will open-up the allocation process to all operators ahead of the ‘use it or lose it’ deadline of 31 December 2013. This process will offer operators who were unsuccessful in obtaining longer semi-trailer allocations first time round, the opportunity to apply for permits to operate them, and for existing longer semi-trailer permit holders to apply for additional allocations without having to wait until the unused allocations are put back into the ‘allocation pot’.
Andy Mair, FTA’s Head of Engineering said:
"FTA is a supporter of the use of longer semi-trailers, as there are significant environmental and efficiency benefits on offer from deploying these vehicles. But FTA has always stated that it is not a vehicle for all sectors and will only be viable on journeys where the goods carried are high volume, low weight as vehicle fill can be improved. The revised re-allocation process will allow those operators who can put these trailers into use on work for which they are suitable, to obtain permits in a more timely manner than waiting for unused allocations to be made available."
The take up of longer semi-trailer permits has been relatively low, with the majority of trailers currently in service being of the longer 15.65m length. However, a recent survey of FTA members who have permits demonstrated that the appetite for longer vehicles remains strong.
Key findings of FTA’s survey include:
• 78 per cent would reapply for permits should any surplus be reallocated
• 82 per cent of respondents would apply for additional allocations if these were made available over the 1800 maximum currently set by Government
• Of those operators who would apply for additional allocations, the majority would apply for the 15.65m variant
• 88 per cent of respondents said they would not be giving up currently unused allocations
Mr Mair added:
"Comments from members suggest that in many cases there are practical issues which need addressing before longer semi-trailers can fulfil their potential. Some of these issues are quite challenging, for example customers may need to make changes to operating practices (or even premises) to accommodate the vehicles, and unless there are many such vehicles the business case of making such changes simply won’t stack up. Also, operators are reporting that some contracts could work well with longer semi-trailers if sufficient numbers were deployed, but due to the small numbers allocated to them, operationally it does not work. Allowing additional permits therefore will help overcome these issues."
In its dialogue with the Department for Transport (DfT), FTA has argued that businesses should have as much flexibility as possible in the use of longer semi-trailers that work for them, and that operators who can demonstrate that they are in a position to deploy these trailers on contracts which reap the greatest efficiency and environmental benefits should be prioritised.
"The process of re-allocation of trailers seeks to maximise the potential carbon saving benefit that their deployment could yield, and to address the current mismatch in supply and demand which is a positive step towards making the trial a success".