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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Why allowing longer lorries on Britain's roads is sparking controversy

Longer lorries are set to be allowed on Britain's roads from today, in a bid to boost the economy and slash emissions.

The vehicles can now be two metres longer, meaning the same amount of items can be transported in less journeys.

It is estimated reducing the number of trips will save 70,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the air, according to the government.

Some of the UK's biggest brands, including Greggs, Morrisons, Stobart, Royal Mail and Argos, are taking part in the new scheme.

But campaigners have said the "hazardous" and "alarming" lorries will create a "dangerous roads environment" for pedestrians and cyclists.

Speaking to ITV's Good Morning Britain, cyclist Keir Gallagher said: "Lorries are actually seven times more likely than cars to be involved in a fatality involving a cyclists or a pedestrian.

"Making lorries longer, with larger blind spots and a larger tail swing is only going to risk making that situation worse."

Mr Gallagher added in a further statement: “At a time when funding for infrastructure to keep people cycling and walking safer has been cut, it’s alarming that longer and more hazardous lorries could now be allowed to share the road with people doing these activities.

"Before opening the floodgates to longer lorries rolling into our busy town centres and narrow rural lanes, further testing in real life scenarios should be done to assess and address the risks.

“Counting casualties years down the line is the wrong way to conduct road safety policy – yet just like with smart motorways, that’s the risk we face unless the government urgently reconsiders these plans.

“Although these longer lorries will represent a minor saving in terms of efficiency, they risk creating a more dangerous and scary roads environment and in doing so could deter people from zero emissions transport options like cycling and walking”.

The Department for Transport says the longer lorries are safe, after an 11-year trial found they were involved in “around 61% fewer personal injury collisions than conventional lorries”.

What do the numbers say?

  • The new longer semi-trailers (LST) are up to 2.05 metres longer than before - creating a total length of 18.55 metres

  • There are to be almost 3,000 LSTs on the road

  • Longer lorries expected to bring £1.4 billion boost for the UK’s economy

  • Over the 11 year trial LSTs were involved in around 61% fewer personal injury collisions than conventional lorries

  • During the trial the was a reduction of 70,000 tonnes of CO2

  • The average carbon dioxide reduction is similar to the amount captured by roughly 11,600 acres of forest per year, the trial showed.

  • There was a reduction of 97 tonnes of NOx over the trial.

  • The savings in NOx emissions averages to the equivalent of around 2,000 diesel cars per year

  • Already 300 companies have taken part in the trial

  • Vehicles using LSTs will still be subject to the same 44 tonne weight limit as before

A government-commissioned report published in July 2021 revealed that 58 people were injured in incidents involving longer lorries between 2012 and 2020.Firms will be encouraged to put extra safety checks and training in place, the department said.

Speaking when the scheme was announced on May 10, roads minister Richard Holden said: "These new longer lorries will make a big difference for British businesses like Greggs, who will see 15% more baked goods delivered, from tasty pastries to the nation’s much-loved sausage rolls.

"It’s fantastic to see this change for our supply chain come into law, resulting in a near £1.4 billion boost to the haulage industry and driving economic growth."

Bakery Greggs has been using LSTs as part of the trail since 2013 and says 20% of its delivery vehicles are now longer lorries.

Supply Chain Director at Greggs, Gavin Kirk, said "We welcome the introduction of LSTs into general use. Since 2013, Greggs has been operating LSTs from our National Distribution Centre in Newcastle. We were early adopters of the trial as we saw significant efficiency benefits from the additional 15% capacity that they afforded us.

"We have converted 20% of our trailer fleet to LSTs, which was the maximum allowable under the trial, and these complement our fleet of double-deck trailers. Our drivers undertook additional training to use these trailers and we have monitored accidents, finding that they are as safe as our standard fleet.

"Due to the increased capacity, we have reduced our annual kilometer (km) travel by 540,000 km, and saved 410 tonnes of carbon per year from LSTs."

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