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The European Parliament Makes Rules on Commercial Vehicles

April 22, 2014

On April 22, the European Parliament passed amendments to Directive 96/53 governing the dimensions and weights of commercial vehicles.

“The vote by the European Parliament is basically a step in the right direction," said Matthias Wissmann, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). "The changes that have been passed concerning vehicle length allow better aerodynamics, and therefore offer an opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions. However, more steps should now follow.”

In April 2013 the European Commission had proposed modernizing the regulations governing the dimensions of trucks, to make the vehicles even more efficient and safer. There is to be the option of making truck trailers longer and the cabs more aerodynamic, according to the VDA.

“More adjustments are needed to regulate this field in a way that is suitable in actual practice," Wissmann said. "To get new, consumption-reducing technologies into the vehicles, the manufacturers need more construction space and greater flexibility for designing the aerodynamics. Sufficient transitional periods are essential in view of commercial vehicles’ long product cycles. Brussels has to take account of that. We expect the European Council to come up with a smart development to the proposals.”

But the decision by the European Parliament did not bring about clear rules for longer trucks circulating across borders.“This means that we have lost an opportunity to make road freight traffic more efficient," Wissmann said. "Eco-trucks could help to make further fuel savings by being used in cross-border traffic as well. It is incomprehensible that the Parliament is ignoring this opportunity for even more environmentally friendly and efficient road freight.”

The Parliament has also called for the introduction of energy efficiency standards for heavy commercial vehicles, similar to those applying to passenger cars and vans, according to the VDA.

“It seems to have been overlooked that at present these emissions from heavy-duty vehicles cannot yet be recorded on a common basis," Wissmann said. "Trucks are economical by their very nature. In recent years the manufacturers have continued to improve the transport efficiency of commercial vehicles. In long-distance transport, an average consumption of less than one litre of diesel per ton payload over 100 kilometers is now normal.”

The VDA noted that, in addition, the Commission had originally proposed increasing the total permissible weight for trucks and buses with hybrid or electric drive by one ton. Here the Parliament has gone even further and has used a rather loose definition of alternative propulsion systems, without prescribing any particular technology.

“We welcome the fact that the parliamentarians are calling for a technology-neutral approach to alternative drive train technologies, because this is the only way to exploit the potentials of all alternative drive trains and fuels,” Wissmann said.

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