Gigaliners – in contradiction to the goals of the Green Deal

A current draft directive by the EU Commission aims to put more extra-long and extra-heavy lorries on the road in the EU. The consequence would probably be a further shift of freight transport from rail to road. This would not only run counter to the goals of the Green Deal, but also jeopardise road safety. At the same time, the investment needed to adapt and repair the infrastructure would be enormous. Gigaliners also represent a deterioration from the workers’ perspective, as they would further increase the pressure on drivers. This is shown in a new position paper of AK EUROPA.

In a further initiative, the EU Commission is trying to establish particularly long or heavy lorries (also known as Gigaliners) throughout the entire EU. The justifications for the draft Directive range from a lack of drivers to an increase in road safety to environmental protection – the proposal is part of a legislative package to green freight transport, presented at the beginning of July. From  AK’s point of view, the arguments put forward are untenable. Due to the numerous problems that would be associated with a more simplified registration of Gigaliners in the EU, AK strictly rejects excessively long and heavy lorries on European roads.

Gigaliners exacerbate the problem of shifting traffic from road to rail
In terms of the green transformation, a shift of freight transport from road to rail is urgently needed. However, the introduction of Gigaliners would counteract this goal. A gradual increase in weight and length limits leads to increasing competitive pressure and a reduction of freight transport by road. This would not only be detrimental from an environmental perspective. A decline in freight transport by rail would also be associated with the loss of skilled employment in this sector.

In addition, the introduction of Gigaliners on Europe’s roads could lead to worsening drivers’ working conditions. The Commission’s proposal would increase the pressure on them even further:  More responsibility, increased need for training and longer loading and unloading times would be the result. A further decline in the already low wage level leads us to expect a “race-to-the-bottom” and an associated exodus from the industry. Driving breaks and rest times already pose a challenge to staff. Due to a lack of sufficiently available rest facilities, many drivers already spend their breaks, parking their vehicles on the hard shoulder. Longer lorries also mean an increasing demand for space at the rest areas. Thus, a further deterioration of the break situation is to be expected. As a representative of workers’ interests, AK can therefore only reject Gigaliners.

Gigaliners also endanger road safety, increasing the risk of serious road accidents. Even now, overloaded lorries are a problem in road traffic. In general, the infrastructure is not suitable for the use of Gigaliners. Very complex structural adjustments would have to be made; driving on low-ranking roads, even conventional lorries repeatedly get into dangerous situations. The loading infrastructure is not suitable for Gigaliners, which means that switching to oversized lorries would involve major investments. When Gigaliners are involved in accidents, existing recovery vehicles of the fire brigade are not suitable for Gigaliners either, as they exceed the maximum weight of 40 tonnes. In addition, the visibility for all road users will be impaired and the severity of accidents will increase due to the additional weight.

Reducing avoidable empty runs: an effective means of combating driver shortage
Reducing the number of empty vehicles would be an effective way of tackling the problem of driver shortage. Throughout Europe, there is a gigantic number of empty vehicles, which pollute both environment and infrastructure. In Austria alone, 926 million kilometres (575 million miles) were driven without cargo last year. An EU-wide regulation on empty runs would be financially more beneficial and would make the use of Gigaliners obsolete.

In addition, AK recommends increasing the control density and improving the relevant standards. The existing draft Directive provides for each Member State to carry out six vehicle checks per one million vehicle kilometres (621 miles). In AK’s opinion, this requirement is clearly too low and has no deterrent effect against abuse.

AK is therefore vehemently opposed to the introduction of Gigaliners on European roads. The present Commission proposal to revise the Directive would have a negative impact on road safety, increase the work pressure on drivers and counteract the climate goals. However, before it becomes law, European Parliament and the Council must first take a position. It is to be hoped that the two legislative institutions will recognise the dangers inherent in the proposal.