Government to extend longer trailer trial

12.00 | 30 January 2017 | | 2 comments

The Government has announced it is to extend a trial which is investigating the environmental and safety impacts of using of longer, semi-trailers for articulated goods vehicles.

Launched in January 2012, the DfT’s Longer Semi-Trailer (LST) trial has been extended to provide a longer reporting period and make the final results ‘more robust’.

While the move has been backed by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), who described the trial as ‘hugely successful’, both the Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) and the Local Government Technical Advisers’ Group (TAG) have criticised the decision.

At present, the number of LSTs involved in the programme stands at around 1,800. Last week’s announcement will see an additional 1,000 vehicles used and the trial period extended by five years.

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An evaluation report, published in September 2016 by the DfT, suggests that LSTs make a significant contribution towards reducing overall HGV miles, with subsequent environmental benefits, and pose no greater safety risk than normal HGV trailers. 

The evaluation says the use of LSTs to transport goods between warehouses and depots has saved up to 10.6m vehicle kilometres, or 90,000 journeys. The report also found that the longer lorries have been involved in around 70% fewer collisions and casualties, per kilometre, compared to the average for standard articulated lorries.

Andy Mair, FTA’s head of engineering, said: “FTA fully supports any increase in the total number of LSTs under trial, as these types of initiatives will play an important part in the logistics industry’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.  

“Through this trial, industry and Government are working in partnership to understand the benefits – in terms of reduced mileage and therefore emissions – of the larger vehicle type, while keeping a very close eye on safety.”

However, the CfBT and TAG say the decision to extend the trail is based on ‘incorrect research’ and have urged the Government to restrict the use of LSTs on urban roads, on safety grounds.

Martin Sachs, secretary of TAG national transport committee, told Transport Network: "The DfT needs to work with local authorities, who are responsible for nearly 98% of the road network, to find a way to minimise the impact of these 7ft longer trailers, particularly on urban routes.

"We need to ensure that there are no increased risks to the safety of other road users and that roadside property and highway infrastructure are protected."

Want to know more about driving for work and road safety? 
Online library of research and reports etc – visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre
Key facts and summaries of research reports – visit the Road Safety Observatory


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    There is an interesting piece in the current edition of Private Eye which deals with the trials of these longer vehicles. GPS logging of vehicle routes was not specified in the trials, despite the tech being readily available at the time they were proposed. There have been incidents of them being used on unsuitable roads where the swing out of the rear of the trailer on tight turns has caused problems. So it seems that there is a proven increased risk to the safety of other road users.

    These trailers are only suitable for use on main trunk routes from both a safety point of view, and as far as road wear is concerned, as Bob has pointed out.

    David, Suffolk
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    Longer units means the carriage of more weight. Our roadways were not designed or constructed to cope with these larger heavier vehicles and the sub structure and coverings are already significantly broken up.

    I know that we blame the weather, ice rain etc but I have seen the way our present road surfaces are pushed and pulled apart at the seams due to the heavy weights that our roads presently have to bear. Ok perhaps for motorway use but not so good for the 98% of roads maintainable by local councils with not only the structure of the roads but with all the other services being damaged underneath them.

    It may be apparently good for the haulage industry and who can blame them for improving their bottom line, but not so good for the rest of us.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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