Longer semi-trailers (LSTs) could become a permanent fixture on Britain’s roads as the government moves to bring to an early end a trial of over 2,600 LSTs following positive results.

LSTs, which are two metres longer than conventional heavy goods vehicles, can carry two more rows of pallets or three more rows of goods cages on each journey.

The DfT has launched a consultation into the future of LSTs today (9 November 2020) after the trial revealed that LSTs can deliver significant reductions in both mileage and emissions whilst boosting productivity.

Results from the trial to date (2012-2019), show the 2,600 LSTs have cut mileage by 33.5 million miles and CO2 by 48,000 tonnes, which is the equivalent to taking over 20,000 cars off the road.

The results also show the trailers were involved in fewer personal injury collisions compared to standard size HGVs.

The trial’s results have prompted the DfT to propose an early end to the project and an industry consultation on whether LSTs should be allowed to permanently operate on roads across the UK.

Today’s consultation will run for 12 weeks from today and will ask for views on the future of the LST trial and what rules should apply to the vehicles should they be run on Britain’s roads permanently.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “Our freight industry keeps the country moving, delivering vital goods and services every single day – which as we all know, has never been more important than it is now, during the pandemic.

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“These trials clearly show the benefits for business and the environment of using longer trailers. By determining the next steps to get them on our roads permanently, we can benefit industry and our economy, boost safety and cut emissions.”

The DfT is also launching a further consultation today on proposals to start a trial of heavier HGVs on UK roads, which could see the maximum weight of some HGVs increased by 4 tonnes to 48 tonnes.

The change suggested in the consultation would allow lorries to transport heavier containers direct to or from freight trains, helping to shift more cargo from road-only journeys onto rail and therefore cutting emissions and congestion on the UK’s roads.

The proposed trial would operate on around ten routes cleared as safe for use by 48 tonne vehicles, and would look at whether it encouraged a shift of goods from road to rail.

The consultations come ahead of the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which will be the blueprint for delivering transport’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting net zero by 2050.

Phil Lloyd, Logistics UK’s head of engineering policy, said the LST consultation was welcome news.

He added; “An industry trial earlier has shown the benefits to the environment and the economy on the use of LSTs, and with the ability to carry more goods per journey than traditional trailers, they present a cost-efficient, environmentally prudent alternative to current transportation options – it is good news that the government has taken heed of the findings."

“If our industry can move the same amount of goods with fewer journeys, the environment, the economy and other road users will benefit – Logistics UK is supporting the switch to LSTs wholeheartedly and is grateful for the opportunity to consult on these vital vehicles.”