Extra-long lorries could be introduced to the roads next year in an effort to ease the shortage of drivers.
The “eco-friendly” lorries would help cut down the number of freight journeys. Longer-semi trailers (LSTs) are up to 2.05m (6.8ft) longer than the current limit of 13.6m (45ft).
The longer design is predicted to help save up to one in eight journeys by fitting more freight in, according to a trial by the Department for Transport.
There is an estimated 100,000 person shortfall in lorry drivers due to workers leaving the country following Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. And The Road Haulage Association (RHA) welcomed the move to longer lorries, saying it would go some way in easing the jobs crisis.
Duncan Buchanan, policy director at the RHA, said: “This will have a benefit because it will decrease the amount of lorry drivers we need. They are higher capacity, so you need fewer drivers to do the same amount of work”
However he disputed the Government’s claim that the longer lorries would take one in eight vehicles off the road, saying that most operations would not be able to use the new vehicles in their routes.
The Government had initially planned to conduct a 15-year trial until 2027 into the proposed scheme. But wrapped up the project early after deciding that it had produced enough data, The Telegraph reported.
However not all responses to the consultation were positive. 57 per cent supported an early end to the trial but 43 per cent called for LSTs to be removed from the roads entirely, out of concern for vulnerable road users.
Green groups expressed their concerns about the plan, saying that the savings in terms of road miles and pollutants would not make up for the impact on pedestrians and cyclists. They also pointed to the likelihood that roads would need to be widened to accommodate the bigger lorries.
Chris Todd, the director of the campaign group Transport Action Network, labelled the project as “greenwashing in overdrive”. He added: “We know from the nature of the extra swing on the vehicle and the bigger blind spot that it’s going to likely have a more chilling effect on people walking and cycling.”
The chronic shortage of lorry drivers has already affected the supply chains of big food retailers and is expected to continue disrupting service at least until next year.
“Thousands of deliveries are not being completed every week at the moment across the food supply chain. Businesses are fighting fires,” said Shane Brennan, from the Cold Chain Federation.
Tesco reportedly told ministers last month that driver shortages were causing 50 tonnes of food a week to be wasted - enough to fill two large trucks.
Dairy giant Arla, the owner of Evian and Volvic and sweet maker Hariba, also admitted that it was having to delay orders because of a lack of drivers.
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