Longer lorries are to be fully permitted on Great Britain’s roads after the government said it would introduce laws to allow their use, despite warnings that the move will increase the number of fatal road accidents.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said lorries measuring up to 18.55 metres long – 2.05 metres longer than the current standard size – would be allowed from the end of this month.
The longer lorries have been trialled since 2011 and there are about 3,000 already on the roads, but from 31 May any business in England, Scotland or Wales will be able to use them.
As part of the change, longer combinations of semi-trailers will be permitted, under the legislation laid before parliament on Wednesday. These longer semi-trailers, or LSTs, measure just over 2 metres longer than a standard semi-trailer and can be towed by a lorry.
The government argues the move will reduce emissions, improve productivity and support supply chains. The longer vehicles will move the same volume of goods as current HGVs, but will require 8% fewer journeys than current trailers, as they transport retail goods, waste packing, parcels and pallets around the country.
Ministers have estimated that the change will bring £1.4bn in economic benefits, and will remove one standard-size trailer from the roads for every 12 trips, therefore saving 70,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
But longer vehicles have a larger tail swing, meaning that their rear end covers more area when turning, and they also have extended blind spots, raising fears for the safety of other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.
Road safety groups have long warned of the dangers posed to pedestrians and cyclists, adding that the vehicles’ swing and blind spots could result in damage to roadside infrastructure.
When the trial was launched, campaigners argued that the new lorries would have a greater length than the bendy buses previously used in London, which were phased out partly because of reports that they were the cause of twice as many injuries as other buses.
The DfT said the 11-year pilot showed that LSTs were involved in about 60% fewer personal injury collisions than standard lorries. Operators will be legally required to ensure that route plans and risk assessments take the specifications of LSTs into account.