The EU's Transport & Environment committee (T&E) doesn't think much of the continent's current regulations on commercial trucks. Their proposed improvements certainly don't look too dramatic, but they suggest longer and rounder rigs would provide better efficiency and better safety through increased visibility:
The current EU law on lorry dimensions forces cabins to be shaped like a brick, which as well as being dangerous, is also inefficient. This hampers progress in fuel efficiency and safety. A rounder lorry front along with rear flaps could improve fuel economy by up to 7-10%, which at today's diesel prices would save hauliers approx. €3,000 per vehicle per year [on haulers that travel over 100,000 kilometers a year].
In contrast to cars and vans, lorries' environmental performance has stagnated over the last 20 years. Whilst only three percent of vehicles, lorries account for a quarter of Europe's road transport emissions. That share is expected to grow as traffic increases further. Lorries also have a dreadful safety record: every year 15% of all fatal collisions – around 4,200 deaths - involve lorries.
T&E was also kind enough to provide an infographic featuring everything they want to change about Europe's commercial truck cabs:
Well it's not nearly as exciting looking as the Wal-Mart truck, but incremental changes are significant when you remember how many of these things are on the road.
The proposed aerodynamic flaps pictured here would "up to 50 cm wide" at the rear of the truck. The drafted rules also allow trucks to be 15 cm longer, and would allow cabs running "low-carbon alternative" propulsion to exceed the current maximum cargo weight by a metric ton.
Six weeks ago a coalition of 130 entities united to campaign for safer and more environmentally-friendly commercial trucks in the European Union. With backing from the T&E, their proposal was drafted by Parliament today. That draft will be debated until next month, when Parliament will vote on making it a law. After that, 28 EU member states must approve the decision to finalize it as a law.
Cities, trade unions, cyclists' organizations, "hauliers' associations," retailers, green and safety campaigners were all united in their desire to increase regulation on the same of commercial trucks, or "lorries" as they're adorably called in Europe.
But truck cab builders (or "lorry makers") are hoping to hold off requirements on building trucks to the new designs until 2025. Theey call it a "safeguard of competitive neutrality." They're also grumpy about the proposals of added safety requirements.
Europe's Clean Vehicles Officer at Transport & Environment William Todts doesn't think businesses will win this one; "Giving lorry makers extra cab space in return for life-saving and fuel-efficient features is a no-brainer. Europe's governments shouldn't let vested interests trump common sense," he said.
We'll have to wait another month to find out of the European Parliament decides to bring this law before the states, and I suppose they have until 2022 to hammer out the details. But let's just be encouraged by the fact that truck efficiency and safety is being discussed at the Parliamentary level at all.
Images: EU Transport & Environment