ROAD TRAINS

More Routes for Super-Long Trucks

gigaliner-Krone Holding
Super-long trucks could be a tight squeeze on some roads.

The number of states now testing super-long trucks Germany, Europe’s largest transit country, continues to grow.

Brandenburg is the latest to join the tests, bringing the total number of states to 13 of a total 16. The city-state of Berlin, emcompassed by Brandenburg, is not participating in trials.

The extra-long trucks have been thundering along select roads and highways in Germany since the beginning of 2012, as part of a five-year field trial program initiated by the federal government.

The extra-long trucks, known as gigaliners in Germany, can measure up to 25 meters (82 feet) in length, compared to a maxium of about 18 meters for regular semi-trucks today. They can weigh no more than 40 tons, are not allowed to transport dangerous materials and must be equipped with a camera to monitor back-end traffic.

Transportation Minister Alexander Dobrindt has already indicated that when the field trials end later this year, the long trucks will begin normal operations across Germany.

Already, regular trucks shoulder 73 percent of all goods transported in Germany. In its most recent forecast, the Federal Ministry of Transport assumes road goods transport will increase by about 30 percent to 607.4 billion tons kilometers by 2030. Ton kilometer is an industry measurement unit for moving one ton of payload for a distance of one kilometer.

The road network allowing the gigaliners is expected to grow still further, after a regulation took effect on Monday allowing additional routes. With Brandenburg and a new route in Baden-Württemburg, the gigaliner network now covers 11,600 kilometers, or about 7,200 miles, and includes 56 firms with 145 trucks, according to the transportation ministry.

Transportation Minister Alexander Dobrindt has already indicated that when the field trials end later this year, the long trucks will begin normal operations across Germany.

The road tests are aimed at weighing the risks and benefits of allowing the long vehicles on German roads.

Opponents point to a number of problems, including traffic safety, and possible damage to roads and bridges because of the trucks’s added weight. They also worry about an even greater incentive to push freight off the rails and on to the roads.

A study by the Frauhofer Institute for Systems and Innovative Research supports that concern. While the researchers agree that long trucks could relieve roads and the environment in the short term, they would, in the long term, would cause a shift from rail to road that would offset the benefits.

“No new scientific insights will be gained,” said Martin Roggermann, of the Pro-Rail Alliance lobby, or Allianz pro Schiene. “The transport ministry simply wants to set precedents (for longer vehicles).”

Advocates say long trucks are 25 percent more fuel efficient than regular trucks, which can have a maxim length of 18 meters, and would reduce the total number of trucks on the road. Two gigaliners would replace three normal trucks, they claim.

Brandburg policymakers are glad to be part of the tests.

“As a logistics region, we also profit from the growing transport between ocean ports and the country’s interior,” a spokesman for the Brandenburg Transport Ministry in Potsdam said on Monday. “There is no sense in remaining outside the road test.”

 

Henrick Mortsiefer is a business editor at Der Tagespiegel. John Blau is a senior editor at Handelsblatt Global Edition. To contact the editors: redaktion@tagesspiegel.de and blau@handelsblatt.com

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