Public put ‘at risk’ by move to allow bigger juggernauts on UK roads

People will be put at risk by a Department for Transport (DfT) decision to permit bigger, longer lorries to drive on Britain’s roads, experts have warned.

The Department for Transport said lorry trailers up to 61ft (18.55m) long, nearly 7ft longer than the current size, will be permitted from 31 May under legislation being laid in Parliament. The 44-ton weight limit will remain unchanged.

The roads minister, Richard Holden, said the move would boost the UK economy by an estimated £1.4bn annually by allowing more goods to be moved. It would also provide environmental benefits by reducing the number of journeys required.

The new lorries will move the same volume of goods using 8 per cent fewer journeys than current trailers
He said an 11-year trial of longer lorries demonstrated they are safe for use on public roads, the DfT said. The study found they were involved in “around 61 per cent fewer personal injury collisions than conventional lorries”, the department said.

Critics warned the decision will put people at risk, pointing out that the Government ended a road-safety trial early.

“Ending the trial early to rush through this approval will put people at risk. Especially in the absence of truly independent and verifiable data as to safe use of longer trailers,” said Chris Todd, a campaigner with the Transport Action Network group.

“While we all welcome moves to decarbonise transport, getting lorries off the road altogether would have far greater benefits,” he said.

“While fewer HGV trips are welcome, when they result in even longer lorries mixing with pedestrians and cyclists the results can be fatal.

“These lorries have a bigger blind spot and the rear of the trailer can swing out and catch people unawares.”

He said the “claimed economic benefits” being made by Ministers should be “taken with a pinch of salt.”

“While touting this is a big improvement, it is busy making congestion worse with its road building programme. This will have a far greater negative impact on British businesses as their lorries become stuck in ever more traffic,” he said.

Norman Baker, from lobby group Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Rather than longer lorries, the Government should be working to ensure more freight is moved by rail – an efficient, safe and clean alternative with just one freight train capable of removing up to 129 lorries from our roads.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The safety record shown during the extensive trials is encouraging but one can imagine problems if these lorries leave the strategic roads and end up off the beaten track.

“Particular attention will need to be paid to diversion routes when motorways and major A roads are closed for repair, as they often are.”

Keir Gallagher, campaigns manager at Cycling UK, called the move “alarming”.

“At a time when funding for infrastructure to keep people cycling and walking safer has been cut, it’s alarming that longer and more hazardous lorries could now be allowed to share the road with people cycling and walking,” he said.

“Before opening the floodgates to longer lorries rolling into our busy town centres and narrow rural lanes, further testing in real life scenarios should have been done to assess and address the risks.”


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