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UK tests 2-metre longer trailers

London, UK: The UK government is to allow trials of trailers over two metres longer than current limits. Mike Penning, UK government roads minister announced the decision, following a consultation on proposals to allow a two-metre increase in the length of articulated lorries.

The Department for Transport is to allow trials for up to ten years of 900 trailers at an increased length of 2.05-metres, and 900 at an increase of 1-metre operating within the existing 44-tonne gross weight limit.

Haulage operators wanted the option to choose different trailer lengths depending on the type of operation.  William Stobart, chief executive Stobart Group hauliers commented: “We welcome today’s news. Eddie Stobart has already undertaken significant evaluation of two key sizes of trailers and we see considerable opportunities for the metre option within our operations.

The Freight Transport Association believes that should there be an over-subscription for the number of high volume semi-trailers than have been authorised under the trial, operators who can demonstrate the greatest efficiency benefits should be prioritised.

Andy Mair, head of engineering policy, Freight Transport Association, says: “FTA research suggests that there are significant environmental and efficiency benefits on offer from deploying these vehicles.  But it is not a vehicle for all sectors and will only be viable on journeys where the goods carried are high volume, low weight as vehicle fill can be improved.  Consequently, the number of journeys will be reduced and the number of lorry miles cut.”

Schmitz Cargobull already has longer refrigerated trailers in use with a supermarket customer handling roll cages for store deliveries in Poland and the Czech Republic where similar trials for longer length trailers are taking place.

These units are a metre longer and run at 41 tonnes with axles spaced to increase the wheelbase and meet turning circle requirements, says Paul Avery, managing director, Schmitz Cargobull.  There are no issues regarding bodywork on the longer trailers – Schmitz already builds 14.9m refrigerated trailers in Germany for the Australian market.

Schmitz is currently assessing requirements for UK operators.  Longer refrigerated trailers will probably require air chutes in single temperature mode to ensure adequate air circulation.  But to operate longer trailers at 44-tonnes, especially 2-metres longer, requires more complex axles with a command steer axle.  The complexity, higher initial cost, and much higher maintenance costs, of such a trailer may well outweigh any volume for operators, says Avery.

Schmitz is ready and willing to build these trailers but Avery is doubtful of any significant demand from operators.  “Such added complexity, and cost the cost of command steer at up to £4- to £5,000, is a big investment.  You’ve got to be pretty serious to go that way,” he says.

“I don’t see an awful lot of people taking it up.  I cannot see people willing to buy a trailer with zero residual value after 10 years [the length of the trial],” he says.

In terms of refrigerated trailers, supermarkets may be able to structure their deliveries to take advantage of the extra load space, but few hauliers can be as precise about loading to guarantee gaining the benefit.

Wincanton has one of the first trailers ready for test. Don-Bur designed and built the 15.65m long Teardrop pillar-less, tri-axle trailer.  The new trailer is 2.05m longer than a standard 13.6m trailer and able to carry four extra pallets.  The trailer axles are more widely spaced with a rear steer ‘self-tracking’ axle to eliminate wheel scrub and a lifting axle to enable low speed manoeuvring. The weight penaly from the extra length, lift and steer axles, is offset by using less but stronger steel and other lightweight components.