Feb 232013

Dear IFRTT Forum subscriber

One last pinprick of the winter is expected this week. But you can see the birds are getting ready for springtime.

In Europe, weights and dimensions of trucks are regulated in the guideline 96/53 although there are attempts in some countries to increase productivity. However in a country such as Germany, this is a sensitive subject.

On January 17th, I was invited to attend a presentation of the research program on the Long-truck trial in Germany. At that time 35 of these 25.25m/40T combinations were in operation. The trial started in January 2012 and will end on 31 December 2016. The research program is extensive. Several universities are involved, all with their own research plans. Some transport companies were complaining about the burden of participating in all these studies. Several impacts of the project are being studied in terms of: truck traffic volumes, traffic safety, tunnel safety, environment, psychological effects, concrete and steel crash barriers, infrastructure in general, driving behavior at road works, gas stations, crossings and maneuvers such as parking and overtaking. Modern research equipment including GPS, cameras and radar is being used for collecting data. The program will provide a wealth of detailed information on the behavior of truck combinations in general and on Long-trucks in particular.

We have to be patient for the results of the study. If the results are in favor of higher productivity trucks, it would be good news for the discussion in Europe. However, it would be only the start of a discussion on the introduction of higher productivity trucks for cross-border road freight. Within the current legal framework it is not allowed. The German Long-truck has a maximum weight limit of 40T, while in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands a maximum of 60T is allowed for these types of trucks. Last year the European Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, proposed to allow cross-border traffic with higher productivity trucks when two countries reach mutual agreement. His proposal received much criticism, mainly from the rail lobby, and it had to be withdrawn.

Another current issue in Europe is truck parking. At night, many public parking areas along international European transport corridors become �camping sites� for truckers. In transit countries such as Germany, Austria, France, Belgium and The Netherlands one will typically find at least ten different nationalities on weekdays at such parking areas. Truckers from Denmark, Spain, Turkey, Slovakia and the Ukraine brotherly sleep together, sometimes with the humming sound of a cooling system in the background. This sounds cozy but there is a world behind it.

In many of these transit countries there is a huge capacity problem regarding public truck parking. The expansion of these parking areas has not kept pace with the increase in road freight transport. West-European transport companies have opened up offices in East-European countries to profit from the low truck driver wages in these countries. Even if these truck drivers receive money from their employer for spending the night at a private truck parking, many save this money for themselves. During the past decade national transport companies in countries such as Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary have become mature, professional organizations. Nowadays, Poland is the market leader in the road freight transport market in Europe. Traditionally the Dutch were the freight movers of Europe, but they have been displaced to the fourth position.

In Europe, driving and rest hours are harmonized, but the way these regulations are controlled differs per country. In some countries historical records are checked for violations, whereas in others only the current situation is verified. The amount of the fine also differs per country. In some countries the relation between the offence and the amount of the fine is disproportionate. The consequence is that truck drivers, when parking areas are congested or when the tachograph demands a rest period, prefer the risk of getting a ticket for parking on the entries and exits of motorways and even in emergency lanes. The fine for illegal parking is far less than the fine for offending the regulations for driving and rest hours. Even when there is a traffic jam, some truck drivers exit the queue and park their trucks for a fifteen minutes pause in an emergency lane in order to rest. The consequences in terms of traffic safety can be guessed. Besides hampering the passage of emergency services, a number of serious crashes have occurred as a result of sleeping truckers in the emergency lane.

Is it a matter of bad planning or is it inability? In the past few years, Germany has built 11.000 additional truck parking bays at a cost of half a billion euros. By 2014 they will have invested another 480 million euros in creating more public truck parking lots. Revenue generated from truck toll fees has been used to invest in this extra capacity. In The Netherlands it has been calculated that 300 million euros are needed to provide enough public truck parking lots. In the current difficult economic times, such funds are not available. And should society pay for this capacity problem? The governmental policy tries to work with companies on a business case for private truck parking. The challenge regarding this paid parking approach is that many truck drivers cannot or are not willing to pay for parking.

There is not an easy solution to this problem. In the meantime the road inspectors of the national road authority in The Netherlands have to deal with the problems on the street. It is often an uncertain journey to start a conversation with a truck driver on illegal parking. Therefore, they are supported by a file with all kinds of useful sentences translated into over 20 languages. �Drive safely. Sicher fahren. K�r s�kert. E????? ?????????. Rij veilig. Conducir con seguridad. A biztons�gos vezet�shez. Conduire en toute s�curit�. Bezpiecznej jazdy.�

All the best,

Loes Aarts

IFRTT Vice-President: Europe

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