ACEA Calls for High-capacity Transport

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The European Automobile Manufacturers Association called last week for European Union policy makers to introduce a high-capacity transport system – allowing high-capacity vehicles to use dedicated parts of the EUs road network – to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

With European freight transport demand projected to grow over the next few decades, ACEA says a high-capacity transport system provides a cost-effective solution to reduce carbon emissions without the need for major modifications to Europes existing road infrastructure.

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The organization says that in the EU, heavy-duty vehicles are responsible for approximately 5 percent of total CO2 emissions, about half of which is generated by regional delivery and long-haul transport.

Three high-capacity vehicles could carry the same load as six heavy-duty trucks, reducing combined distances driven and slashing CO2 emissions by 27 percent, according to DUO2, a Swedish firm that researches high-capacity transport systems.

The proposed system would also benefit rail transport in an intermodal context, the organization says. Pre- and post-road haulage of intermodal loading units and bulk commodities by high-capacity vehicles for further transport via railways will improve the overall efficiency of intermodal transport, the report states.

Not only that, but the ability to load more freight on fewer vehicles could be part of a solution to the lack of truck drivers and projected driver shortage in the future.

Some countries in the EU already use high-capacity vehicles: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, most German federal states, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. ACEA says those countries have shown positive results, and that CO2 reductions have been confirmed in practice.

But ACEA admits that there are challenges in transitioning to a high-capacity transport system. One is that studies have shown high-capacity vehicles attract little to no freight from railways and inland waterways. There are reasons for that, such as railway terminal capacities, timetables, lead times and transport time, but increasing freight transport demand requires better intermodal transport synergy.

The organization also says that despite data showing high-capacity vehicles have better safety performance than regular heavy-duty trucks, public perception goes against this notion. It is important then that measures such as new safety requirements and special driver training are taken to increase the acceptance of high-capacity vehicles, ACEA says.

And since high-capacity vehicles would only be allowed to drive on a dedicated road network, ACEA recommends the implementation of systems that would allow the collection of data from vehicles to monitor their position, status and compliance in real time.

Finally, incentives must be established to increase the market penetration of high-capacity vehicles. ACEA suggests that high-capacity vehicles not be financially penalized for their higher capacity, but that they should in fact be incentivized due to the improved transport effectiveness, environmental benefits and economic benefits that high-capacity vehicles provide on regional deliveries and long-haul operations.

In order to implement a high-capacity transport system, ACEA has a number of suggestions for EU policy makers. The first is to remove restrictions on cross-border use of the European Modular System, which allows the combination of existing loading units into longer and heavier vehicle combinations to be used on certain road networks. The use of such transportation is currently restricted to domestic hauls.

The second suggestion is that the European Commission harmonize requirements for high-capacity vehicles.

ACEA also asks that future regulations on high-capacity transport systems be based on performance-based standards for both vehicles and road infrastructure, and that EU-funded research projects should be used to address this.

The organization called for pilot programs, trials and more research to support wider introduction of the European Modular System.

If a high-capacity transport system was to be implemented, the reductions in CO2 emissions could help European countries achieve commitments of the Paris Agreement, the international agreement aiming to combat climate change. It could also reduce needs to switch heavy-duty vehicles to alternative power sources, such as batteries.

Original equipment manufacturers could also ease pressure for the lubricants industry to make contributions toward better fuel economy in commercial trucks. Any such gains from lubricants would likely pale in comparison to the gains from a high-capacity transport system.

Brussels-based ACEA represents the 15 Europe-based car, van, truck and bus manufacturers.

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