Larger trucks could become a permanent fixture on UK roads as the government aims to tackle emissions and congestion. The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced a consultation on longer semi-trailers (LSTs), which it claims can “increase productivity and reduce haulier emission levels”.

LSTs are slightly longer than conventional heavy goods vehicle (HGV) trailers, enabling them to carry an extra three rows of supermarket goods cages on each journey. However, the DfT says the longer trailers are no heavier than their conventional counterparts.

A trial of LSTs has been underway for the past seven years, and the government’s results suggest they have saved lorry drivers from travelling 33.5 million miles. This, the DfT claims has cut emissions from trucks by 48,000 tonnes – equivalent to the emissions of 20,000 cars. And despite their additional size, the government also claims LSTs are no less safe than normal HGV trailers, being involved in fewer personal injury collisions.

These positive results have caused the government to propose an early end to the trials, and it has launched a consultation into whether the trucks should become a permanent feature. The consultation will invite firms, organisations and individuals to air their views on the matter before reaching a final conclusion.

“Our freight industry keeps the country moving,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, “delivering vital goods and services every single day – which, as we all know, has never been more important than it is now, during the pandemic. These trials clearly show the benefits for business and the environment of using longer trailers. By determining the next steps to get them on our roads permanently, we can benefit industry and our economy, boost safety and cut emissions.”

HGV lorry with orange shipping container in motion on the road

At the same time, the government is also launching a consultation into the possibility of heavier trucks, proposing a four-tonne increase to the upper weight limit. Such an increase would see the maximum weight of UK trucks rise to 48 tonnes, a change designed to enable vehicles to shift heavier containers from ships to trains. The government will trial the scheme on 10 certified routes, in the hope the move will increase use of rail freight.

The proposal was welcomed by Logistics UK, which represents the haulage industry. The organisation’s head of engineering policy, Phil Lloyd, said the change could cut emissions and reduce congestion.

“Logistics UK welcomes the trial and supports the idea,” he said. “Allowing a 48-tonne operation would enable a reduction in the number of journeys required to service each train, resulting in reduced road congestion and lower emissions.”

Traffic on British motorway with HGVs