The government is to launch a trial of 48-tonne trucks and allow the use of longer semi-trailers (LSTs) on Britain’s roads from 2022, the DfT has announced.

The move follows a nine-year trial and a public consultation on LSTs, which DfT said found “overwhelming” support for the vehicles.

Motortransport.co.uk first hinted at the move back in February after transport secretary Grant Shapps revealed his plans to a government committee.

The trial concluded that the vehicles, which can be up to 15.65m in length, were safer, more economical and better for the environment since they could remove up to 1 in 8 freight journeys by carrying the same amount of cargo in fewer lorries.

Announcing its plans, DfT said longer vehicles could play a key role in supporting the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan by reducing mileage, congestion and carbon emissions.

The announcement comes as UK prepares to host COP26 this November - the 26th UN Climate Change Conference.

DfT revealed that more than half (57%) of respondents to the government consultation felt LSTs should be in general circulation and could see the positive effects the move would have on both the road haulage industry and Britain’s efforts to lead the fight against climate change.

The nine-year trial of LSTs saw a reduction in the number of lorries making journeys across the country, with an average 8% reduction in miles covered by freight, as well as a 6.2% reduction in pollutants expelled.

The research also revealed the use of LSTs reduced the number of road traffic collisions by reducing the number of journeys being made. However DfT said that while the trial showed the use of LSTs caused fewer collisions, additional mitigations are under review to ensure the safety of both hauliers and road users.

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DfT said it will also be launching a separate trial of 48-tonne lorries, following a positive response from a recent consultation on their introduction. The trial will see 48-tonne trucks transport heavier containers directly to and from rail depots so that goods can be transported across the country by train.

In a statement DfT said: “Currently, the maximum weight of a lorry (44 tonnes) makes it difficult to carry heavier goods to rail depots, meaning goods are dispersed between more lorries to be taken to their end destination by road. Taking more goods in heavier trucks to rail depots to be transported by train will help reduce congestion across the country and also slash emissions.”

Under the trial the 48-tonne trucks will only be able to use specific routes and would be limited to a set maximum journey length, which has yet to be specified.

Announcing the DfT’s plans for longer trucks, Shapps said: “This government is committed to fighting climate change and decarbonising our transport network, and we are working at pace to achieve net zero by 2050.

“Today's announcement is a vital step forwards as we work to introduce more environmentally friendly freight to our roads and build back greener.”

The RHA said it welcomed today's news, insisting LSTs were safer, more economical and better for the environment.

“We have fully supported these trials since they were first proposed," explained MD for policy and public affairs, Rod McKenzie. "Many of our members took part in the trials and all were very positive about the concept. This is something we have long campaigned for so it’s good to see the government has listened to the RHA and its members.

“We look forward to seeing these proposals progress, not just in England but also in the devolved nations.”

The RHA added that it also welcomed news that the government is launching trials of heavier 48-tonne freight.