12 May 2023


CLECAT called for the uptake of high-capacity transport in Europe to support sustainable and efficient transport logistics at Transport Logistics Munich on 9 May. In anticipation of a proposal for a revised Directive on Weight and Dimensions, at times of high energy prices, driver shortages and an urgent need to reduce CO2 emissions, rationalising logistics operations by means of high-capacity transport is more interesting than ever. Yet, there are remaining challenges which prevent the use of high-capacity transport in Europe as debated by a panel of industry, research and government representatives.

 Ben Kraaijenhagen, Technical coordinator of the ZEFES Project gave a keynote introduction on the current and upcoming challenges of transport and logistics. ‘As freight demand is expected to grow significantly (+49% between 2010 and 2040), coupled with the need to drastically reduce GHG emissions from the sector to meet the Paris agreement’s targets, it is of utmost importance to increase the efficiency of transport and logistics. High-capacity transport, using longer combinations of vehicles is one of the main solutions to reach these goals’, he noted. Mr Kraaijenhagen presented the main objective of ZEFES project, which stands for ‘Zero Emission, flexible vehicle platforms with modular powertrains serving the long-haul Freight EcoSystem’. ZEFES will demonstrate the potential of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles operating under real logistic conditions across Europe by identifying and operating a certain number of real use cases, including intermodal transport and high-capacity transport.

 Bram Ewals, CEO of Ewals Cargo Care gave a testimony on the piloting of the Duo-trailer, a 32-metre-long vehicle combination (two standard trailers attached to the tractor) noting that ‘duo-trailers are an excellent tool for multimodality and can help decarbonise road transport by putting less vehicles on the road. However, this vehicle combination should be able to operate across borders to fully maximise its potential.’ Dirk-Jan de Bruijn, in charge of innovation and strategy at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure noted that the complexity of European and national rules hampers the uptake of such vehicles: ‘While the first trial of Duo-trailers in the Netherlands had been conducted in January 2019, there is still a long way to go to authorise their use, due to complex rules managed by different government authorities and agencies which do not collaborate together enough. Now that several countries in Scandinavia and in Spain have demonstrated the potential for the wide use of these vehicle combinations, other countries should follow, at least by authorising their use in very-specific uses cases, such as between logistics areas.’

 With regards to safety concerns of high-capacity vehicles, Lena Larsson, Project Manager HCT at Volvo Technology, explained that there is no clear evidence that longer combinations of vehicles would decrease road safety: ‘The number of accidents is instead correlated to the number of vehicles on the road, and not to their size. So high-capacity vehicles could help improve road safety in general by reducing the number of trucks on the road.’

 Nicolette van der Jagt, Director General of CLECAT, moderator the panel, summarised the important takeaways: all stakeholders seek to reduce GHG emissions and congestion, to alleviate the shortage of drivers, and to improve road safety while absorbing the expected growth of freight transport demand. Therefore, she concluded, ‘we need more pilots now to transport more with less vehicles in combination with smart technologies.’