Transport secretary Grant Shapps MP has given the go-ahead to the widespread use of longer semi-trailers (LSTs) on Britain’s roads.
At a recent transport select committee hearing the transport secretary said he had signed off a trial of “heavier, or I think more wheelbases. I’ve signed off trials to make it permanent.”
A Dft spokesman told MT that Shapps was referring to the DfT’s trial of LSTs.
The trial of 2,600 LSTs, which was set to run until 2027, became the subject of a DfT consultation last November after it delivered significant reductions in both mileage and emissions whilst boosting productivity.
The consultation, which closed last month, looked at whether the trial should be brought to an early end and LSTs be allowed to permanently operate on roads across the UK.
Two sizes of LSTs were included in the trial, 14.6m and 15.65m, the longer length proving by far the most popular as it can can carry two more rows of pallets or three more rows of roll cages than a standard 13.6m trailer.
Trial results from 2012 to 2019 revealed the 2,600 LSTs had cut road mileage by 33.5 million miles, reduced CO2 by 48,000 tonnes - the equivalent to taking over 20,000 cars off the road – and been involved in fewer personal injury collisions than standard HGVs.
The haulage industry welcomed Shapps' decision to make LSTs a permanent fixture on UK roads.
Tom Cotton, RHA head of infrastructure policy, said: “This is absolutely brilliant news as LSTs can carry another six pallets, so from an environmental perspective the industry can move more per vehicle, cutting down on journeys and emissions.
“It also helps to some extent with the driver shortage problem. However we would also like to see the weight allowance increased from 44 tonnes to get the full benefit from these vehicles.”
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, also welcomed the move.
He said: “SMMT has supported the trial of longer semi-trailers as they increase productivity and contribute to emissions reductions.
“We’re convinced that lifting the operator cap will increase uptake, and that the market should decide on how widespread they are used.
“While LSTs have an excellent safety record, additional ‘light touch’ regulation, as favoured by DfT, can help reassure those with any lingering queries, and ensure manufacturers and operators can reap the environmental, productivity and safety benefits of these trailers.”
Trailer manufacturers also gave a thumbs up to the adoption of LSTs this week.
Paul Bratton group president of SDC Trailers, said the company had taken an order “in excess of 50 LSTs” last week, as hauliers prepare for the government go-ahead.
“We have had considerable interest in LSTs in the past few weeks. The good thing about the trial ending is that those LSTs on the trial now have a residual value which they did not whilst the trial was still running,” he said.
However he warned that hauliers may have to wait for new LSTs. “We have a limited amount of capacity for this year with the demise of Cartwright and because European manufacturers struggling right now with rising transport costs, which means they are concentrating on the European market,” he said.
Dean Ridgill, Montracon sales operations manager, also hailed the news and said Montracon was already well prepared to take LST orders.
“We’re ready. In 2017 we made a business decision to future proof the business to accommodate LSTs at our Doncaster site, installing a paint plant, shop blast and new processes so we could meet demand,” he said.
Richard Owens, group marketing manager at Don-Bur, also raised concerns about the 44 tonne weight limit on LSTs.
He said: "LSTs are a natural progression from double-decks and there is no real reason they should not be allowed, plus they cut CO2 emissions and energy consumption.
"However, their weight limit does means they are not really fulfilling their true potential and will have a limited appeal. They are great for high cube operations and there will definitely be an increase in demand but there is room for improvement."