The day Londoners are being urged to sign a petition against lethal lorries may not be the ideal time for the Government to propose allowing longer HGVs on Britain's roads.
However, today the Department for Transport has launched a consultation on the possibility of allowing an increase in the length of articulated lorries, saying that independent research has demonstrated such a move could cut carbon emissions without compromising safety.
The research is being published today by Roads Minister Mike Penning along with a consultation paper seeking views on the proposed changes.
The proposal would allow a two metre increase in the total length of articulated lorries without changing the existing weight limit of 44 tonnes, taking the maximum permitted length of an articulated lorry to 18.75 metres.
The DfT estimates that this move could increase capacity for hauliers transporting lightweight goods by up to 13% and cut carbon emissions by around one hundred thousand tonnes each year.
Of course such legislation may also permit lorry cabs to be designed in such a way as to make vulnerable road users more visible to drivers. The DfT-commissioned report says: "A 1m pedestrian-friendly nosecone applied to all tractor units would be likely to save 10 pedestrian fatalities per year in GB and 2 pedal cyclists."
However, it seems reasonable to assume that hauliers would want to use the extra length for cargo-carrying, rather than life-saving purposes.
Mike Penning said: "The road haulage industry is vital to the economy, making goods and services accessible across the country.
"These proposals would allow haulage firms to use one larger truck where previously they may have needed to send two vehicles. This will help to make our haulage industry cleaner and greener as well as allowing businesses greater flexibility without compromising safety.
"I hope that everyone with an interest in this issue will take time to look at this consultation and let us know their views on this proposed change."
A spokeswoman for the DfT told road.cc that such longer vehicles would spend the majority of their time moving between large distribution centres rather than operating in urban environments where they would be likely to encounter cyclists.
In response to a specific enquiry about safety from road.cc, Road Safety Minister Mike Penning told us:
“We do not believe that there would be any increased risk to cyclists or any other roads users from allowing a 2.05 metre increase in the length of HGV semi-trailers.
“However, we are consulting on these proposals and have included a question in the consultation on whether we should require these vehicles to use hi-tech steering which would make their turning circles smaller than those of conventional HGVs.
"The current evidence does not suggest that this is necessary but we welcome evidence and views from the public on whether this should be a condition of allowing the use of these vehicles and will consider this closely.”
The Department further maintains that longer lorries weighing the same as those currently on the highways would not create any increased wear and tear on road surfaces.
Click on the links to find both the consultation document and associated feasibility and impact assessment study.
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