Updated: Longer HGVs mooted by Department for Transport

Lorries of over 18m being proposed

by Mark Appleton   March 30, 2011  

Articulated lorry.jpg

The day Londoners are being urged to sign a petition against lethal lorries may not be the ideal time for the Government to propose allowing longer HGVs on Britain's roads.

However, today the Department for Transport has launched a consultation on the possibility of allowing an increase in the length of articulated lorries, saying that independent research has demonstrated such a move could cut carbon emissions without compromising safety.

The research is being published today by Roads Minister Mike Penning along with a consultation paper seeking views on the proposed changes.

The proposal would allow a two metre increase in the total length of articulated lorries without changing the existing weight limit of 44 tonnes, taking the maximum permitted length of an articulated lorry to 18.75 metres.

The DfT estimates that this move could increase capacity for hauliers transporting lightweight goods by up to 13% and cut carbon emissions by around one hundred thousand tonnes each year.

Of course such legislation may also permit lorry cabs to be designed in such a way as to make vulnerable road users more visible to drivers. The DfT-commissioned report says: "A 1m pedestrian-friendly nosecone applied to all tractor units would be likely to save 10 pedestrian fatalities per year in GB and 2 pedal cyclists."

However, it seems reasonable to assume that hauliers would want to use the extra length for cargo-carrying, rather than life-saving purposes.

Mike Penning said: "The road haulage industry is vital to the economy, making goods and services accessible across the country.

"These proposals would allow haulage firms to use one larger truck where previously they may have needed to send two vehicles. This will help to make our haulage industry cleaner and greener as well as allowing businesses greater flexibility without compromising safety.

"I hope that everyone with an interest in this issue will take time to look at this consultation and let us know their views on this proposed change."

A spokeswoman for the DfT told road.cc that such longer vehicles would spend the majority of their time moving between large distribution centres rather than operating in urban environments where they would be likely to encounter cyclists.

In response to a specific enquiry about safety from road.cc, Road Safety Minister Mike Penning told us:

“We do not believe that there would be any increased risk to cyclists or any other roads users from allowing a 2.05 metre increase in the length of HGV semi-trailers.

“However, we are consulting on these proposals and have included a question in the consultation on whether we should require these vehicles to use hi-tech steering which would make their turning circles smaller than those of conventional HGVs.

"The current evidence does not suggest that this is necessary but we welcome evidence and views from the public on whether this should be a condition of allowing the use of these vehicles and will consider this closely.”

The Department further maintains that longer lorries weighing the same as those currently on the highways would not create any increased wear and tear on road surfaces.

Click on the links to find both the consultation document and associated feasibility and impact assessment study.

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I've got a clever idea to increase capacity and cut emissions/costs. What if you got a load of lorries and stuck them together, end to end and then you put a very big engine on the front of it. You could make special rails for them to run on at high speed very safely. It'd be like a train of lorries running on rails - I'd call it a Railway Train.

Why's no-one thought of this before?! Wink

posted by crazy-legs [537 posts]
30th March 2011 - 19:40


How many miles of canals do we have in addition to railways, no need for these monsters on our roads.

posted by onlyonediane [162 posts]
30th March 2011 - 20:40


I believe the last lot tried this but failed, it just doesn't make any sense.

posted by northstar [1107 posts]
30th March 2011 - 20:42


Canals and railways need constant maintenance to keep them safe - roads, apparently, do not.

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [412 posts]
30th March 2011 - 20:47


Apparently some materials were supposed to be delivered by the waterways to the Olympic site. Sadly most of it came via the roads.

posted by onlyonediane [162 posts]
30th March 2011 - 20:54



This is the Greenest Government EVER, naysayers.

You wait 'til they're all powered by coal, I mean, electricity, you'll be laughing on the other side of your faces then.

"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [422 posts]
31st March 2011 - 8:27


Lots of HGVs struggle with winding rural roads and tight urban streets in the UK already. Making the vehicles larger sounds ridiculous. And once they are legal the hauliers will want to make the most of them so they won't be restricted to edge-of-town distribution centres.

As for the argument about saving CO2 I suggest that is at best a red herring, at worst intentionally misleading.

Chuckling at the "ped friendly" nose cone, I had to check it wasn't Friday already. Is it some kind of sponge? Better cab design and, most importantly, driver training would be much better ideas.

Edit: perhaps if we didn't transport so much food around, particularly from abroad, such as the grain for our so-called "fresh" supermarket bread, there wouldn't be so much pressure on the roads in the first place.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2001 posts]
31st March 2011 - 9:53


I personally don't see a problem with larger lorries. As they say, the VAST majority of their usage will be on 'trunking' runs between main depots, and not coming into areas anyway.

Also, as a cyclist myself, and also a bit of a truck fan, it is my opinion that in the majority of accidents involving lorries and bikes the main problem is the cyclist being a prat and squeezing themselves into one of the many blind spots on the lorry.

In a queue of traffic, for example, DO NOT pass a large vehicle unless you can be certain that they can not move until you have got completely clear of them! This is very simple to do, and if everyone followed this advice there would not be a problem.

posted by keith_newnham [59 posts]
2nd April 2011 - 14:26


Sorry for the repeated post. I was having issues with my internet connection and it appeared to not be doing it, so it then posted again!!

posted by keith_newnham [59 posts]
2nd April 2011 - 14:40


"it is my opinion that in the majority of accidents involving lorries and bikes the main problem is the cyclist being a prat"

Thank you for an opinion that is not supported by road accident investigations, highlighting issues with poor visibility from the cab of large HGV's, left hand drive lorries on city streets and a recent spate of fatal accidents involving HGV's in London.

I'm sure the families mourning the loss of the cyclists involved will appreciate your use of the word 'prat'.

-- Hey, how many gears have you got? .. Just one! ... Mate, your bike sucks! --

brylonscamel's picture

posted by brylonscamel [20 posts]
6th April 2011 - 17:19