The proposal will allow cabins with a rounded shape and for the use of aerodynamic flaps at the back the trailer. These measures will considerably improve the aerodynamics of vehicles, saving approximately € 5,000 per year in fuel costs for a typical long-distance lorry covering 100,000 km. This represents a 7–10% cut in greenhouse gas emissions (or 7.8 tonnes of CO2 for the same long-distance lorry covering 100,000 km). At the same time, the field of vision of the driver will be improved, helping to save the lives of 300 to 500 vulnerable road users such as pedestrians or cyclists every year.
Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "A brick is the least aerodynamic shape you can imagine, that's why we need to improve the shape of the lorries on our roads. These changes make road transport cleaner and safer. They will reduce hauliers' fuel bills and give European manufacturers a head-start in designing the truck of the future, a greener truck for the global market."
The rules setting the specifications for heavy goods vehicles date back to 1996 (Directive 96/53/EC). They now need to be updated to take account of technological developments.
The main advantages of the proposal are:
- Better environmental performance: In the EU, transport depends on oil and oil products for about 96% of its energy needs (1). Reducing the fuel consumption of long-distance road haulage by 7–10% will make a very important economic and environmental contribution. In addition, the proposal allows for additional weight specifically to accommodate the use of heavier batteries required by alternative propulsion systems (hybrid, electric) for lorries – mainly urban – and coaches. However, the loading capacity of lorries will not change.
- Better road safety: The current "brick shape" front of the cabin can increase the severity of injury to road users in a collision. It also reduces the driver's sideways field of vision. This is particularly dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians at junctions. A more rounded shape increases the field of vision and in the event of a low-speed collision – typically in an urban environment – reduces the risk of serious injury.
- Better for hauliers: Improved aerodynamics of vehicles will save approximately € 5,000 per year in fuel costs for a typical long-distance lorry covering 100,000 km.
- Industrial opportunity for vehicle manufacturers: European heavy vehicle manufacturers are market leaders and the sector is one of the largest corporate investors in research and development. The conception of the new aerodynamic cabins and rear flaps will be an opportunity for manufacturers to develop new models, which will support job creation and economic growth in Europe.
- More consistent controls and reduced road damage: Up to one third of controlled vehicles are overloaded, causing damage to roads and compromising safety. On-board weighing systems linked to the digital tachograph and weigh-in-motion stations on the main roads will allow for more consistent controls from country to country. Overweighting of lorries currently is estimated to cost 950 million per year to the taxpayer.
- Promoting intermodal transport: Red tape will be reduced allowing 45 foot containers to be switched more easily between ship, road and rail.
In June 2012 Vice-President Kallas provided guidance on the conditions under which longer lorries can cross borders. The main point of this guidance was to underline that the use of longer vehicles is an issue for individual Member States to decide, in line with the principle of subsidiarity, based on different local conditions. No Member State is obliged to authorise the use of longer vehicles if they do not deem it appropriate. However, the guidance indicated that the use of longer vehicles can be authorised by adjacent Member States as long as it remains restricted to transport between only those two Member States which already allow this, and does not significantly affect international competition. This guidance is now incorporated in the revised directive.
The current proposal must be adopted by the European Parliament and Member States before becoming law. The new trucks could be expected to be seen on the roads by 2018-2020.