European Commission lifts 'mega-lorry ban' thus allowing them to cross borders
In response to lobbying from some Member States the European Commission is to change its legal interpretation of 'maximum vehicle size' in order to allow the so-called mega-lorries, which can measure up to 25-metres and weigh up to 60 tonnes, to cross borders from one Member State to another. Until now lorries that are longer than 18.75 metres, or heavier than 40 tonnes (with cargo), have only been allowed, on a trial basis, on the roads of those Member States that are currently conducting such trials. However, Member States operating 'mega-lorry' trials, including Sweden and the Netherlands, have criticised the Commission saying that up until now it has misinterpreted the law and that current legislation does not actually prevent cross-border trials.
As a result Siim Kallas, the European Commissioner for Transport, has announced his intention to change the legal interpretation, thus allowing mega-lorries to cross borders enabling Member States, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, to link up their trials. In a letter sent to Brian Simpson, Chairman of the European Parliament's Transport Committee (TRAN), he wrote that, in spite of a furious reaction from MEPs, he had "decided to go ahead with the change as allowing mega-lorries to cross borders is “the interpretation which is the most consistent with the text of the directive and the initial ambition of the legislator." (EuropeanVoice)
This decision, which came into effect immediately, has been severely criticised by a number of MEPs, particularly German Green MEP Michael Cramer, a member of TRAN, who wrote, "The Commission has announced that it unilaterally intends to lift the ban on cross-border mega-lorry traffic by transferring the power to decide to member states. This would worsen the competitive disadvantage faced by environmentally-friendly rail transport, and undermine the EU's democratic decision-making process. The plans to implement this about-turn by changing the interpretation of current EU law would bypass the roles of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers as co-legislators on this directive. The Parliament's transport committee has therefore taken a cross-political decision to examine all available legal remedies. Under the directive on maximum vehicle weights and dimensions, member states can allow mega-lorries under certain circumstances. However, the directive explicitly rules out cross-border use. This was not only the purpose of the legislation as set out by the Commission at the time of adoption in 1996, but also an interpretation that different European commissioners for transport subsequently reiterated despite years of pressure from the road-transport lobby and a handful of member states." (EuropeanVoice)
The fear is that lifting the ban on mega-lorries, otherwise known as giga-liners, will see road freight numbers increase, to the detriment of rail freight, and those Member States which currently do not allow mega-lorries within their borders, such as the UK, being forced to agree in order to remain competitive. According to the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour, Siim Kallas has bowed to pressure from the freight lobby and while a handful of logistics companies will benefit from the change it will be the taxpayers who will have to foot the bill. "According to ASFiNAG, the publicly owned company that runs Austria's motorways, it would cost €5.4 billion in Austria alone to adapt the infrastructure – roads, bridges, tunnels, roundabouts and level crossings –for longer, heavier vehicles. That is not to mention the social, health and environmental costs. This is a classic example of socialising the costs while privatising the benefits." (EuropeanVoice)
Last Updated (Wednesday, 26 September 2012 11:08)