Longer Heavier Vehicle
|This article is outdated. (September 2012)|
Longer Heavier Vehicles (LHVs), also called super lorries, is a classification of large goods vehicle (LGV) (formerly Heavy Goods Vehicles, HGVs) in the United Kingdom. LHVs are not presently allowed to operate on UK roads, being longer and/or heavier than the legal limits, which as of 2009 allowed LGVs up to a maximum of 6 axles and 44 tonnes (43.3 long tons; 48.5 short tons) of fully laden vehicle weight, and a maximum overall length of 16.5 m (54 ft 2 in) for articulated lorries, or 18.75 m (61 ft 6 in) for drawbar lorries.
Since the early 2000s, some haulage companies in the UK had been investigating potential LHV designs and lobbying for a change in the law. Various types of LHV exist, and most of the larger types involve using extra axles, and different trailer arrangements, forming so called road trains. LHVs are supported by some hauliers as a way to increase productivity and reduce costs. Their introduction however faces opposition from rail freight, road safety and environmental groups, who want a general reduction in road traffic, and from portions of the general public over general safety and quality of life issues.
In 2005, some companies unsuccessfully applied to the Department for Transport (DfT) for permission to be able to trial their prototype vehicles. In November 2006, the DfT launched a desk based study into the potential impact of a multitude of LHV options on the UK road transport sector, and the wider economy and environment in general, looking at options ranging from simply extending existing lengths and weights of articulated and drawbar lorries, up to allowing 11-axle, 34 m (111 ft 7 in) long, 82-tonne (80.7-long-ton; 90.4-short-ton) fully laden weight vehicles. In June 2008, based on the study's conclusions, the legalisation of most types of LHV was postponed indefinitely, due to concerns over the effect on the rail freight sector, and the need for infrastructure and other changes, although a further investigation into the LHV option of extending the length of articulated lorries, to create Longer Semi-Trailers (LSTs), was begun in June 2009.
Despite the 2008 DfT ruling on LHVs, Lincoln based haulage company Denby Transport, one of the most active proponents of LHVs who had developed their own 25.25 m (82 ft 10 in) long 60-tonne (59.1-long-ton; 66.1-short-ton) Denby Eco-Link LHV, is attempting to have their vehicle legalised at 44 tonnes (43.3 long tons; 48.5 short tons), under an existing UK legal loophole dating from 1986.
In the UK, cargo carrying vehicles were previously defined, and still commonly known as, HGV's (Heavy Goods Vehicles), although for harmonisation with other European Union member states, this term was officially changed to LGV - Large goods vehicle. Articulated lorries are the more common configuration of larger LGV in the UK, where a tractor unit tows a semi-trailer through a fifth wheel coupling. The drawbar configuration is a less common example of large LGV, and consists of a rigid lorry with cargo carrying capacity, which also pulls a second cargo trailer, using a drawbar link. The UK also allows the use of 18 m (59 ft 1 in) long 'bendy buses' for public transport. Buses however have their own legal classification, as PSVs (Passenger Service Vehicles).
Weights and dimensions
Since 1992, weight and axles limits for goods carrying lorries in the United Kingdom had increased in stages from 38 tonnes (37.4 long tons; 41.9 short tons) and 5 axles. As of 2009[update], vehicles are limited to a maximum of 6 axles, and limited to an overall maximum weight of 44 tonnes (43.3 long tons; 48.5 short tons) and 16.5 m (54 ft 2 in) in length for articulated lorries, and 44 tonnes (43.3 long tons; 48.5 short tons) and 18.75 m (61 ft 6 in) for drawbar lorries. The restriction on overall length is why the majority of UK lorries are hauled by 'cab over' tractor units, although for the minority of UK uses where the weight limit is reached before the length limit, conventional trucks are legal.
Longer, heavier vehicles (LHVs) is a classification given to any vehicle that is heavier and/or longer than these legal limits. This can involve basic extensions of the normal articulated or drawbar configuration, or can be achieved with more axles and a more complex configuration, with the largest examples being similar to so called road trains elsewhere in the world.
Whatever configuration of vehicle used, to be legally operated on UK roads, vehicles must adhere to the EU defined articulated vehicle turning circle regulations, which state that any vehicle must be able to navigate a turning circle around a set-point, keeping the whole of the vehicle within a corridor bounded by two circles around that point, with the inner circle having a radius of 5.3 m (17 ft 5 in), and the outer radius being 12.5 m (41 ft 0 in). Vehicle turning circles are particularly important in the UK due to the historical existence of many narrow streets, and a high number of roundabouts.
European Union law
As of 2009, some types of LHV already operate in the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland, with trials also having occurred in Germany.
As of 2009, European Union member countries only have the power to raise the existing EU weight and length limits in their own countries. As of January 2009, the European Union was considering the conclusions of an European Commission (EC) instigated report, which recommended raising limits EU wide to 60 tonnes (59.1 long tons; 66.1 short tons) and 25.25 m (82 ft 10 in), for reasons of cost-effectiveness. This would require approval of the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
The issue of the prospect of LHV's, at the time being called 'road-trains' or 'super-lorries', being allowed on Britain's roads came to national attention through the media in September 2005, following an application by hauliers to be allowed to trial longer trucks, and a report on the issue being prepared for the Department of Transport.
UK hauliers Dick Denby of Denby Transport and Stan Robinson from Stan Robinson Group were two of the biggest supporters of an LHV trial. Both companies had been developing their own designs, and had been lobbying the government for permission to test them on UK roads. The Robinson Group were developing the Stan Robinson Road Train, an 11 or 12 axle 84-tonne (82.7-long-ton; 92.6-short-ton) combination of two 13.6 m (44 ft 7 in) semi-trailers linked by a trailer dolly. Since around 2002, Denby had been developing the Denby Eco-Link, an 8 axle, 60-tonne (59.1-long-ton; 66.1-short-ton), 25.25 m (82 ft 10 in) long vehicle with two trailers, known as a B-Double.
Supported by the Road Haulage Association, it was proposed that these LHV's would only be used on Motorways to carry cargo between regional distribution centres. The application was opposed by Transport 2000 who believed it would eventually lead to the use of such vehicles in towns and villages. In March 2006, Transport minister Stephen Ladyman refused the Denby and Robinson applications, but also sought the results of further analysis. An application for a 16 m (52 ft 6 in) long trailer was also refused. The use of LHVs only on inter-modal routes was reportedly rejected due to the problems of enforcement of any such restriction.
DfT desk study
In 2006, the DfT initiated a desk based research project into the potential use of LHV's. The study was titled Longer and/or longer and heavier goods vehicles - a study of the effects if they were to be permitted in the UK, and it ran from 3 November 2006 to 3 June 2008. The compilation of the report was contracted to the Transport Research Laboratory, with Heriot-Watt University also involved.
The study looked at seven different scenarios for increased weight and/or length over the current arrangements:
- increasing the maximum articulated lorry length to 18.75 m (61 ft 6 in), to match drawbar lorries, but with no increase in the maximum vehicle weight of 44 tonnes (43.3 long tons; 48.5 short tons)
- as above, but increasing the maximum vehicle weight to approximately 46 tonnes (45.3 long tons; 50.7 short tons) to allow for the same maximum weight of cargo to be carried
- increasing the maximum length of any combination to 25.25 m (82 ft 10 in), and increasing the allowable number of axles from 6 to 8, but with no increase in the maximum vehicle weight of 44 tonnes (43.3 long tons; 48.5 short tons)
- as above, but increasing the maximum vehicle weight to approximately 50 tonnes (49.2 long tons; 55.1 short tons) to allow for the same maximum weight of cargo to be carried
- as above, but increasing the maximum vehicle weight to approximately 60 tonnes (59.1 long tons; 66.1 short tons) to allow for the maximum weight of cargo to be increased
- increasing the maximum length of any combination to 34 m (111 ft 7 in), and increasing the allowable number of axles from 6 to 11, and increasing the maximum weight to 63 tonnes (62.0 long tons; 69.4 short tons)
- as above, but with a maximum weight to 82 tonnes (80.7 long tons; 90.4 short tons)
The report had originally been due to be published in October 2007.
During 2007, the prospect of LHV's being approved sparked public debate on 'road trains' for the UK, with the claimed environmental, cost and road safety benefits being contrasted with quality of life issues, and questions of perceived safety risk to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists of LHV's on British roads, with LHV's drawing such descriptions as 'monsters' or 'supertankers of the highway', and drawing comparisons to the "murderous" bendy-buses in London. An increase in the size of lorries was opposed by the rail industry, with the Freight On Rail lobby group saying in 2007 that past increases had only resulted in half empty lorries.
In summary, the study concluded that LHV's could not be operated in the UK without changes to infrastructure, developing dedicated routes, and changing certain speed limits. It concluded that, depending on the industry take-up, LHV usage could lead to a net increase CO2 emissions by effecting a modal shift from rail, although it revealed that LHV's would result in a net reduction of fatalities due to the overall reduction in vehicles on the roads, and would substantially reduce freight transport costs (although capital investment costs had not been accounted for). The report found there could be several benefits to allowing the extension of existing articulated trailer lengths, creating Longer Semi-Trailers (LSTs).
On 4 June 2008 based on the DfT report, Transport Minister Ruth Kelly declared that the use of LHV's would not be trialled in the UK, but indicated support for a study into extending the length of normal articulated semi-trailers.
Ruth Kelly's decision not to allow practical investigation of most LHV's was criticised by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), but welcomed by the UK's largest railfreight operator English, Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS). The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) believed it would have been better to allow specific trials 'in order to reach an objective conclusion'. The FTA had also previously wanted a number of "responsible" transport companies to be allowed to carry out monitored trials of LHV's at their own expense.
Longer Semi-Trailers study
As a result of the desk study, in June 2009 the DfT launched another study into the benefits and impact of legalising longer semi-trailers (LSTs), to investigate extending ordinary trailers by up to 2.05 m (6 ft 9 in). The LST report was not expected to be released until December 2009, and a ministerial decision on changing the regulations would take even longer. That report was being prepared by WSP, MDS Transmodal, TRL, MIRA and Cambridge University among others and would examine safety, industry benefits, CO2 effects and effects on the rail industry. Eddie Stobart was also trialling a 950 mm (37.4 in) longer than standard trailer in 2009.
Denby 44 tonne legal challenge
In late 2009, Lincoln based haulage company Denby Transport announced their intention to challenge the prohibition of LHVs, through the law courts if necessary. On legal advice, Denby had taken the view that, due to its manoeuvrability, and if kept to the present legal maximum weight of 44 tonnes, their Denby Eco-Link LHV would be legal to use under a loophole in the present UK laws, namely the 1986 Road Vehicles Construction and Use Regulations. The DfT, maintaining that it was an illegal LHV, conceded that only the courts could definitively rule on the issue. Feeling he had reached an impasse with the DfT, on 1 December the company owner Dick Denby took the Eco-Link for a test drive on the A46, intending to fight any resulting prohibition order through the courts. Having been notified by Mr Denby beforehand, police stopped the vehicle just outside the gates of Denby's depot, and Mr Denby was ordered to return the vehicle to the depot pending an inspection by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), who were expected to prohibit the vehicle from being used.
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