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UK considers longer semi-trailers

London, UK: UK transport operators have welcomed a government proposal to allow operation of longer semi-trailers for UK domestic operation.

The Department for Transport is to consult on a 2.05m increase on the current 13.6m trailer length of semi-trailers, better know as articulated vehicles or artics in the UK.

Under the proposals the maximum length of a semi-trailer would increase to 15.65 metres enabling operators who carry high volume, low weight products to improve vehicle fill and reduce numbers of journeys.

The new length will give an equivalent deck space to current drawbar (rigid truck and trailer) combinations. The consultation does not consider an increase in maximum vehicle weights.

The Department for Transport proposes to initially allow high volume semi-trailers on a trial basis during which time the operational benefits can be fully assessed.

Andy Mair, head of engineering policy at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said: “Increasing the length of semi-trailers makes business sense and environmental sense, as it will improve logistics efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the freight industry. Not all operators running artics will go out and buy these trailers.”

The FTA believes demand for high volume semi-trailers will to be confined to specific market sectors where products carried are bulky and low density. The majority of carriers are expected to remain at existing trailer lengths which provide greater operational flexibility where vehicle activity has the potential to be weight constrained.”

The consultation concludes that current manoeuvrability requirements can be met with high volume semi-trailers through existing trailer steering technology and that the vehicles themselves do not present a greater overall safety risk.

There are benefits for refrigerated trailers where additional length will allows better air circulation within the trailer. Transfrigoroute UK is championing an increase in trailer length. It makes sense environmentally as well as operationally to increase trailer utilisation by carrying frozen, chilled and ambient product on the same trailer. But that requires an addition 200mm to allow airflow and maintain correct temperatures.

Transfrigoroute is lobbying the EU for such an increase for trailer operation on international journeys. The EU is also considering proposals for a 25m Eurocombi trailer concept and ideas for another trailer length at over 18m.

Mair said: “Sticking to existing steering technologies means that there are no technical barriers to early take-up of longer semi-trailers. However, the combination of steering technologies and increased trailer length will result in an overall reduction of payload. There could have been an even greater win had Ministers been more ambitious in considering a slight increase in gross vehicle weight to achieve payload neutrality.”

Within the consultation, consideration is also given to an increase in overall combination length to 18.75 metres (the same as currently allowed for drawbar combinations). Mair said “this would allow vehicle operators to specify cab frontal shape designs that will improve fuel efficiency and safety”.