Bibby Distribution

The DfT is being urged to make longer semi-trailers a ‘business as usual’ option for fleets, following the government’s latest trial update.

The national trial now sees around 2,000 longer semi-trailers in operation on UK roads, which have so far saved up to 32.9 million vehicle kms and 28,000 tonnes of CO2 compared with standard trailers.

Initially launched for a 10-year period in 2012 with an allocation of 1,800 trailers, it was last year extended until 2027, with a further 1,000 longer semi-trailer licences added to the mix.

FTA, while welcoming another set of positive data (see below for highlights), is now pushing the DfT to conclude the scheme early and make the longer trailers a permanent option for operators.

This, it said, will give them confidence to invest in a second generation of vehicles.

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Christopher Snelling, FTA's Head of UK Policy, said: “The industry deserves to have certainty that we have permanent access to these vehicles and we will be urging the government to move up the approval process for them.

“Trading conditions are tough for the logistics industry at the moment - the introduction of longer semi-trailers would provide tangible benefits for both operators and other road users,” he added.

The sentiment was echoed by Liverpool-based operator Bibby Distribution, which now runs 43 of the longest 15.65m versions.

“It's continued to be a very positive trial for us as a business in the past 12 months,” said head of fleet and procurement Adam Purshall.

“However, the frustration a little bit for me is that there is no indication that this is going to move to business as usual in the short term.”

He believes the trial is nearing a tricky point with some of the earlier trailers reaching the end of their lifecycles in the next two to three years and not enough time left on the scheme to warrant replacements.

“At what point do you commit to another capital expenditure for a product that potentially could have a limited lifecycle?” asked Purshall.

County Durham operator Elddis is also finding success with 15 longer semi-trailers, running seven 15.65m trailers and eight 14.6m units.

However, If the trial was to be made permanent, MD Nigel Cook believes more investment is needed in infrastructure to accommodate the longer trailers, for example by lengthening parking spaces at motorway service stations and enabling deliveries at space-restricted sites such as supermarkets.

Longer semi-trailer progress: 2017 progress report

  • Allocations available - 2,800; allocations granted - 2,600
  • Longer semi-trailers on the road submitting data: 1,939
  • Journey legs travelled to date: 3.6 million
  • Km travelled to date: 443 million (85% trunk, 13% principal, 2% minor roads)
  • Journeys by 13.6m trailers saved by using longer trailers: 235-270,000
  • Average saving across all operators: 1 in 14 journeys/ 7% distance travelled
  • CO2e saved to date: 28,000 tonnes; CO2e saved by 2027: 67,000
  • NOx saved to date: 141 tonnes; NOx saved by 2027: 336 tonnes
  • On a per km basis, nationally longer semi-trailers have been involved in around 70% fewer personal injury collisions and casualties than GB articulated average