The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has welcomed the publication of a consultation by the Department for Transport which considers the opportunity for increasing the length of semi-trailers by up to 2.05 metres. Under the proposals the maximum length of a semi-trailer would increase to 15.65 metres enabling operators who carry high volume, low weight products to improve vehicle fill and reduce numbers of journeys. The new length will give an equivalent deck space to current drawbar (rigid truck and trailer) combinations. The consultation does not consider an increase in maximum vehicle weights.
The Department for Transport proposes to initially allow high volume semi-trailers on a trial basis during which time the operational benefits can be fully assessed.
Andy Mair, FTA’s Head of Engineering Policy, said:
"Increasing the length of semi-trailers makes business sense and environmental sense, as it will improve logistics efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the freight industry. Not all operators running artics will go out and buy these trailers. The demand for high volume semi-trailers is expected to be confined to specific market sectors where products carried are bulky and low density. The majority of carriers are expected to remain at existing trailer lengths which provide greater operational flexibility where vehicle activity has the potential to be weight constrained."
The consultation concludes that current manoeuvrability requirements can be met with high volume semi-trailers through existing trailer steering technology and that the vehicles themselves do not present a greater overall safety risk.
"Sticking to existing steering technologies means that there are no technical barriers to early take-up of longer semi-trailers. However, the combination of steering technologies and increased trailer length will result in an overall reduction of payload. There could have been an even greater win had Ministers been more ambitious in considering a slight increase in gross vehicle weight to achieve payload neutrality."
Within the consultation, consideration is also given to an increase in overall combination length to 18.75 metres (the same as currently allowed for drawbar combinations). Mair commented that, "this would allow vehicle operators to specify cab frontal shape designs that will improve fuel efficiency and safety".