European Union considers changes to truck dimensions

The European Commission has released a proposal aimed at facilitating the introduction of more aerodynamic trucks by allowing manufacturers to design truck cabins with a rounded shape and to equip vehicles with aerodynamic flaps at the back of the trailer.

While these may be considered small changes, research has shown that they can have a considerable impact on aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, particularly over longer distances. Combined, these improvements can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 10 per cent, with no change to loading capacity, the Commission reported.

The current EU rules covering heavy goods vehicles were established in the 1980s to meet three key objectives – to protect infrastructure, to ensure road safety and to ensure free competition within the single European market. At the time, the rules were not designed with energy efficiency or environmental objectives in mind.

Today, the maximum weight of heavy goods vehicles in Europe is 40 tonnes (44 in combined transport) and the length is restricted to 18.75 metres. Consequently, cab-over rigid trucks and prime movers are the preferred option rather than more aerodynamic bonneted vehicles.

The European Commission has now acknowledged that the current rules prevent the introduction of innovative designs – such as more rounded cabins- which are essential to increase fuel efficiency and safety.

The EU proposal also addresses the issue of overloading, with up to one third of controlled commercial vehicles being found to be overloaded and causing damage to the infrastructure and compromising road safety. On-board weighing systems and weigh-in-motion stations on the main roads will allow targeting overweight vehicles automatically. 

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