Acumen Longer Semi-Trailers jpg - RESIZED

The DfT will offer longer semi-trailers on a first come, first served basis before next year, after admitting the current timescale for getting the trial's 1,800 units onto the UK's roads will not be met.

With around six months to go until the deadline to put the 1,800-plus trailers (at 14.6m and 15.65m) on the road, just 500 are in operation.

“Given the current rate of take-up, it is highly unlikely that the 1,800 figure will be reached by December 2013,” the DfT said in a statement.

As recently as February the DfT was claiming that longer semi-trailer uptake would surge and the 31 December deadline for operators to use or lose their allocations would be met.

However, it has now launched a consultation including proposals to scrap the deadline.

Although the latest data highlights that operators continue to show little interest in the 14.6m longer semi-trailer (with just over 100 on the road), the department is sticking to its guns and has ruled out changing either the lengths or maximum weights (44-tonne) involved in the ten-year trial.

The proposal

Under the proposals, all existing allocations will be honoured up to the 31 December deadline, becoming void after this if not taken up.

However, before the year's end all operators - even those currently holding allocations - will be free to apply for as many longer semi-trailers as they want until the full trial quota is achieved.

If the 1,800 allocations are not reached by the year's end, the process will continue into 2014 until they are.

It means that technically this could swell the trial size beyond 1,800 if demand is strong and those holding onto allocations also decide to make use of them, but the DfT thinks this unlikely.

Operators will still be limited to running no more than 20% of their existing semi-trailer fleet, or 180 longer semi-trailers, as part of the trial.

No one currently sits at that limit as the single biggest allocation – to Norbert Dentressangle – is for 131 longer semi-trailers, suggesting most operators that want to will be able to take on more longer semi-trailers.

Welcome news

The news will be welcomed by the likes of APC Overnight, Bibby Distribution and the Co-operative, which have all gone on record stating they would like to run more semi-trailers as part of the trial than they received allocations for.

It will also open up participation beyond the 180 operators successful in the original allocation.

Under the revisions, permissions will only be valid at the point when an operator is ready to order, and for two to three months in a bid to stop businesses sitting on allocations and not putting units onto the road.

The consultation ends on 9 July.