New and “onerous” regulations on the use of longer semi-trailers (LSTs) are driving up running costs and creating inefficiencies, with some operators being forced to lay up their LSTs, RHA warned this week.

The new regulations were introduced in May this year, following the DfT’s decision to allow the trailers, which are to 2.05 metres longer than the current standard semi-trailers, to be widely used. 

The move followed an 11 year trial, involving almost 3,000 LSTs and over 300 operators, including major brands such as Greggs, Morrisons, Stobart, Royal Mail and Argos.

The trial found that using LSTs had saved 70,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the period of the trial, by taking the equivalent of one standard-size trailer off the road for every 12 trips.

However RHA warned this week that the benefits of LSTs will be lost, due to new legislation requiring hauliers to make a route plan for every journey, in writing, specifying the road or roads on which the LST is to be used both to and from its destination.

The plan must give “turn-by-turn” instructions, highlight hazards on route and advice on managing the risk and give the driver an option to give feedback on the route.

In addition drivers are required to hold copies of the paperwork and the route plan which must be kept for two years.

RHA members, along with RHA managing director Richard Smith, met with DfT last week to discuss the new requirements but their concerns appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Smith said: “We and some of our members are still concerned about onerous administrative processes on longer semi-trailers (LSTs) after meeting with DfT.

“Safety is paramount but there is too much bureaucracy making LSTs unworkable for many when new requirements come in after transition period ends on 30 November.

“Some members are already parking up their LSTs as these processes are creating inefficiencies and driving up costs. This also means missed opportunities to reduce emissions from the supply chain - RHA will continue to urge ministers to revise the guidance.”

County Durham-based Elddis Transport took part in the LST trial and currently operates a fleet of 15 LSTs. Managing director Nigel Cook told MT that the company is currently considering parking up some of its LSTs due to the impact of the regulations on his business.

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He said: “We run a fleet of 15 LSTs, of which seven are 15.65m trailers, which operate in our general fleet on fairly well defined routes, so route planning for them is not so much a problem.

“However the difficulty lies with our fleet of eight 14.65m LSTs which we use for general haulage. The new legislation makes it almost impossible to run these vehicles for general haulage because they have to have a risk assessment for every route the driver does and with a lot of customers we do not know what the backload will be, so how can we plan the route?

“We took part in the trial before this legislation came in and we never had a problem. These new rules are too restrictive and so we are now considering whether to de-fleet all eight or most of those eight LSTs as we just cannot be reactive with them. I cannot imagine how companies with much larger fleets of LSTs are going to handle this challenge.”

He added: “These trailers are very efficient, cutting costs for our customers and CO2 emissions - as the trial proved - but these new regulations undermine those gains.

“I am also concerned other operators who are new to LSTs and thinking of investing in them may not realise that these new restrictions now apply.”

Renfrewshire-based Malcolm Group also participated in the LST trial and currently operates a fleet of around 200 LSTs

Chief executive Andrew Malcolm is so concerned about the new legislation that he met with DfT officials some months ago to make them aware of how restrictive the regulations are, and last week two of his directors formed part of the RHA delegation that met with DfT officials.

He said: “We will not be parking up any of our LSTs, but we will not be buying anymore LSTs. The DfT has overcomplicated the regulations. Nine tenths of accidents with LSTs on the trial were in confined spaces such as a yard or an enclosed area. They are very safe.”

Pointing to the trial’s findings on costs and carbon emission reductions, he added: “LSTs tick every box if used properly. However, with the capital costs of these vehicles now much higher, as well as these new regulations, it makes it a very unattractive prospect for new entrants.”

Richard Owens, technical support specialist and marketing manager at trailer manufacturer Don-Bur (Bodies & Trailers) argues that the new requirements are not that different from the regulations used during the trial.

He said: “In fact, they are arguably easier for some operators who carry out regular, known routes.  However, we do appreciate that, for operators who run on irregular routes with little notice, this will be onerous and perhaps a deterrent if it affects operational cost or flexibility too much.

He added: “Whilst I agree that the need for route planning and risk assessments for each journey is an added task, there are numerous other tasks within the previous trial operator undertaking that are no longer required such as the reporting elements.

“The operational benefits of running LSTs are significant and operators must carefully consider whether the additional paperwork under the new legislation will offset those benefits,” he cautioned.

The RHA said this week DfT is willing to work with the industry to develop the guidance, but only within the remit of the legislation. An RHA spokesman said: "We will continue to talk with DfT. Our members want greater clarity on what exactly these requirements mean."

A DfT spokesperson said: “The longer semi-trailer regulations were brought in following a public consultation and extensive work with stakeholders.

"These regulations will ensure journeys are efficient, and carry on the environmental and safety benefits seen during the trial.”