10/05/2023 in Truck News
Author: Gareth Roberts
The Government is introducing new legislation today (Wednesday, May 10) to allow longer lorries on British roads from May 31.
Operators will be able to use longer semi-trailer (LST) combinations up to 18.55 metres – 2.05 metres longer than standard size.
The extra length will enable them to move the same volume of goods using 8% fewer journeys than current trailers – generating an expected £1.4
billion in economic benefits and taking one standard-size trailer off the road for every 12 trips.
The move follows an 11-year trial to ensure they are used safely on roads. It showed that LSTs were involved in around 61% fewer personal injury
collisions than conventional lorries. For Greggs, the change in law will help it achieve a 15% uptick in its regular deliveries having been operating LSTs from its national distribution centre in Newcastle since 2013.
“We were early adopters of the trial as we saw a significant efficiency benefits from the additional 15% capacity that they afforded us,” explained Gavin Kirk, supply chain director at Greggs. “We have converted 20% of our trailer fleet to LSTs, which was the maximum allowable under the trial, and these complement our fleet of double-deck trailers.
Our drivers undertook additional training to use these trailers and we have monitored accidents, finding that they are as safe as our standard fleet.
Due to the increased capacity, we have reduced our annual km travelled by 540,000, and saved 410 tonnes of carbon per year from LSTs, which supports our wider ESG agenda, The Greggs Pledge.”
Roads minister Richard Holden says that a “strong, resilient supply chain” is key to the Government’s efforts to grow the economy.
That’s why we’re introducing longer semi-trailers to carry more goods in fewer journeys and ensure our shops, supermarkets and hospitals are always well stocked,” he said.
These new vehicles will provide an almost £1.4bn boost to the haulage industry, reduce congestion, lower emissions and enhance the safety of UK roads.”
Vehicles which use LSTs will be subject to the same 44 tonne weight limit as those using standard trailers, and the new vehicles are expected to cause less wear on the roads than conventional lorries due to the type of steering axle used.
Operators will be legally required to ensure appropriate route plans and risk assessments are made to take the unique specifications of LSTs into account.
In addition to these new legal requirements, operators will also be expected to put in place extra safety checks including driver training and scheduling, record keeping, training for transport managers and key staff, and loading of LSTs.
With more than 300 companies in the UK having already taken part in the trial, and almost 3,000 on the road, some of the biggest brands including Greggs, Morrisons, Stobart, Royal Mail, and Argos, will be rolling out the longer semi-trailers.
The trial revealed the important environmental benefits associated with the introduction of LSTs, included a reduction of 70,000 tonnes of CO2 and 97 tonnes of NOx over the trial.
The average CO2 reduction across the lifetime of the trial is similar to the amount of CO2 captured by roughly 11,600 acres of forest per year.
The savings in NOx emissions averages to the entire annual NOx emissions of around 2,000 diesel cars per year.
Introducing LSTs, says the Department for Transport (DfT), is an important, easy and affordable measure to continue to reduce CO2 emissions from the haulage industry without significant technological and infrastructure development.
Chris Yarsley, senior policy manager at Logistics UK, agreed. He said:
“The introduction of longer semi-trailers into general service will increase the scope and scale of the goods which our industry is able to transport, increasing efficiencies and reducing the environmental impact of delivering for the UK’s economy.
Over the past few years of the trial, our members have proved that LSTs provide operators with a cost-efficient, environmentally prudent alternative to conventional vehicles and our members remain committed to rolling them out across the wider industry as soon as possible.”
Following this article by 'Commercial Fleet', the Union approached its members at Greggs to get their view on these longer semi-trialers. One member has responded with the following comment:
" As for the longer semi-trailers they have been used for many years with Greggs and I understand for most of the government trial period.
The trailers themselves are very nice to tow and behave relatively well out on the road. Other drivers that we may pass on an odd occasion when on the road recognised that we are running longer and tend to revert back to the old fashion methods of a little flash of the headlights to notify us that we are clear and safe to pull back in safely.
For an experienced driver the trailers are fine in towns and cities, we will plan ahead and steal a little more road at junctions and roundabouts. An experienced driver will also predict the traffic around then and make all the adjustments they need to stay safe for themselves and other road users.
However there is a downside. Inexperienced drivers find them quite daunting. They have gone from a
45-foot trailer to 53-feet, and that extra 8 foot makes the rear end a very long way back when towing forward. The rear swing also takes them some time to get used to. Depending on the axle placement (we have 3 different types) the length from the rear axle to the end of the trailer is about 15 feet. This is a lot of swing when turning and the rear steer axle helps but does push the back a long way out. Then we have the issue with reversing. Inexperienced drivers forget that regardless of trailer length, all trailers travelling in reverse, pivot from the centre axle when going onto a parking bay, or onto a loading Dock from an angle, even with the rear axle steering to assist. With the trailers turning faster and sharper this tends to end up in quite a few shunts. It has been known for some drivers to take up to 45 minutes to reverse onto a tight bay.
You well find that most companies using LST trailers will be running from one RDC to another. Mostly motorways work with very little urban driving, with their depots situated close to a main highway system. The size of the RDCs will also be suited to the extra length without any modification required, and therefore create very few
Greggs however is different. With above using the network of motorways we have an increased amount of urban and town driving compared to other companies
because of locations of the smaller shop deliver depots that we need to supply stock to. We depart from a large RDC with adequate manoeuvring room but arrive at a depot location designed for 30 foot, class 2 shop deliver vehicles. Remembering we are arriving at 60 foot 10 inches let the fun begin, as no consideration was given to the problems this would cause. Again experience pays whereas inexperience costs in both time and damage.
You would think that training would be key on these trailers, but training only helps if it is good training. With Greggs the training consists of around 80 percent highway driving 15 percent urban driving and the remaining 5 percent reversing, which is done in our own RDC, Remembering that is designed for the size of the vehicle. No additional training is considered or implemented to help with operating these LST trailers in a confined space that reflects on the delivery destinations.
If an accident does happen within a reduced working area, retraining is carried out with the driver but again it reflects the original training only, rather than additional training within a confined space. This is great for drivers if an accident does occur they are advised to keep blaming the training versus reality of operation.
Another down side to the trailers are motorway service areas. The likes of Wetherby and Tamworth especially are a no go area for breaks due to the risk of damage that may be caused when manoeuvring in and out of a parking space designed for 45 foot trailers.
Don't get me wrong as for both the environment and quantity of stock movement they are great trailers, but good training is paramount or the cost of damage will outweigh the savings gained from an extra 4 pallets moved per journey."