Improving trailer efficiency is a global concern. Humbaur, a German trailer manufacturer touts the capacity of its “Big One,” while a recent study shows the environmental impact of larger trailers.

Annual report from Department For Transport shows that they’re reducing emissions, saving up to 280,000 miles per year

Aug. 1, 2014
LONGER semitrailers (LSTs) in the UK are saving between 186,000 and 280,000 miles per year, reducing carbon and other pollutant emissions, and reducing the number of trucks on the road, according to an annual report released by the UK’s Department For Transport (DFT).

LONGER semitrailers (LSTs) in the UK are saving between 186,000 and 280,000 miles per year, reducing carbon and other pollutant emissions, and reducing the number of trucks on the road, according to an annual report released by the UK’s Department For Transport (DFT).

“Longer semitrailers enable freight companies to transport more goods more efficiently, so (they) could have significant economic and environmental benefits,” Transport Minister Stephen Hammond said. “It is great news that these longer trucks are now delivering real results in fewer journeys, and it is encouraging that they have been involved in fewer incidents than standard trucks.

“Longer semitrailers should provide significant economic and environmental benefits to the UK. The operational trial will enable the government to look at these issues further and also represents an opportunity for industry to show the benefits these trailers can bring to the UK.”

The 10-year trial was launched in 2012, allowing companies to apply for a share of 1800 allocations to operate longer vehicles. The report shows that between 372,000 and 560,000 vehicle miles have been saved by use of the longer semitrailers in the trial so far, which also means reduced carbon and other pollutant emissions. The report also shows that longer semitrailers are operating safely, with a lower rate of injury incidents than standard trailers.

The government predicts the trial will save over 3300 tons of CO2 over its duration. The overall benefits are estimated at $56 million over 10 years.

Said Andy Mair, head of engineering for the Freight Transport Association, “FTA is a supporter of the use of longer semitrailers, as there are significant environmental and efficiency benefits on offer from deploying these vehicles. But FTA has always stated that it is not a vehicle for all sectors and will only be viable on journeys where the goods carried are high-volume, low-weight, as vehicle fill can be improved.”

Operators may apply for either length or both. There are separate application forms for 44.6-foot and 51.3-foot LSTs. The 51.3-foot length appears to be the preferred option for most operators at a ratio of approximately 4-to-1, while the current allocation of 1800 is split evenly between the two types. The longer LST is 10 inches shorter in total length than the longest permitted heavy-goods vehicle currently on EU and UK roads.

The LSTs can be single-deck, high-cube, or double-deck as required. Step-frame chassis are allowed as long as they can meet the turning circle requirements.

The DFT is insisting on three axles, explaining it this way: “We took the standard 44-tonne articulated heavy goods vehicle as our starting point for the trial. We assumed that operators will wish to maximize the potential load, within the overall permitted gross vehicle weight of 44 tonnes, and have therefore specified the number of axles that permits this.”

No serious incidents were reported in the first year of the trial. There have been some minor incidents, but the DFT said “some of these may well have happened whatever the length of the semi-trailer, or be due to unfamiliarity with the new configuration.”

Data collecting

The DFT is recording detailed data, not settling for just safety or reduced fuel consumption.

“While these are the highest-profile issues to be resolved through the trial, there are other aspects as well on which the government is looking to the trial to validate the assumptions in the original report,” the DFT said. “These include possible effects if the number of longer semitrailers introduced is significantly higher than that predicted by the research; the impacts of longer semitrailers on road infrastructure and design and on depot and distribution center infrastructure and design; and the impacts on SMEs of allowing longer semitrailers.

“The calculation of fuel saving has to be made with reference to the loading factor of the vehicle. It is the way in which the vehicle is used that produces the improved efficiency—on a straight mile-per-mile comparison, a 15.65m (51.3-foot) articulated vehicle is unlikely to show lower fuel consumption than a 13.6m (44.6-foot) articulated vehicle. The savings are made at the point where the additional loading capacity brings a reduction in lorry miles.

“The fields in the journey log have been selected to enable the monitoring to check whether the vehicles are being used for different types of operation to those assumed in the research, whether the type of goods being carried matches the assumptions of the research, and whether the loading factor of the vehicle converts to reduced fuel consumption per tonne-kilometer.

“Although the data collection may appear complex, it has been designed to be readily retrieved from normal operational planning systems. The participants with the largest number of vehicles are very likely to have telematics systems that can download the data automatically. The companies that do not have access to telematics systems are likely to have a relatively smaller pool of the longer semitrailers. The only assumption we have made is that everybody in the trial will have access to a computer that runs Microsoft Excel, a printer that can print an A3 sheet of paper and access to the Internet.”

Operators can apply for allocations as soon as they are ready to order an LST.

Operators who are ready to use a longer semi-trailer or batch of semitrailers may submit an application form. The DFT will then process the application and provided it meets the criteria will issue an allocation that will be valid for six months.

Providing that they are ready to use a longer semi-trailer or batch of semitrailers, operators may apply for as many as they like subject to the condition that they do not go over the cap of 20% of their current semi-trailer fleet, or 180 semitrailers, whichever is the lower. For small businesses with 10 or fewer standard semi-trailers, the caps will be different. For operators with one or two semitrailers in their standard fleet, they can be allocated one LST; for operators that have three to 10 semitrailers in their total fleet, they can be allocated one or two LSTs. ♦