Proposals to introduce significantly longer and heavier goods vehicles onto British roads were rejected today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. This follows the publication of an independent report, highlighting a number of issues making their use in the UK impractical, either on a permanent or trial basis.

The report, commissioned by the Department for Transport from the Transport Research Laboratory, found that super-lorries could lead to an increase in CO2 emissions due to goods shifting from rail to road, create serious implications for the management of the road network - as the vehicles would be unsuitable for many roads and junctions - as well as introducing new safety risks. Ruth Kelly said:

"This study shows that super-lorries are not compatible with British roads. Not only are there clear environmental drawbacks, but such vehicles would be unsuitable for many roads and junctions, while providing the infrastructure to accommodate them would require substantial investment."

There are also uncertainties about how efficiently such vehicles could be used, particularly when sourcing loads of sufficient size to make return journeys sustainable; and about their impacts on the viability of existing rail freight services and the potential for future growth.

The report does show, however, that there could be worthwhile benefits from permitting a modest increase in the length of current articulated vehicles. The Department will consider this further in the context of its ongoing strategic work on freight.

1. The full report can viewed in full at http://www.trl.co.uk

2. The study looked at a number of scenarios - modest increases through to 34 metre, 82 tonne vehicles. Media reports have referred to 25.25 metre 60 tonne combinations as 'super-lorries'. Here we have used the term to refer to any vehicle that is 25.25m or longer.

3. Eight scenarios were considered in the study:

A. business as usual (44 tonne, 16.5m articulated heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and 44 tonne, 18.75m drawbar combinations - rigid HGVs towing single drawbar trailers) B. an increase in the length of articulated HGVs from 16.5 to 18.75m - equal to that currently permitted for drawbar combinations, with the associated increase in unladen weight reducing the available payload. C. as B but with the maximum weight increased from 44 to approximately 46 tonnes to compensate for the increase in unladen weight (i.e. a payload neutral weight increase) D. an increase in length to 25.25m, and in the number of axles from 6 to 8, with the associated increase in unladen weight reducing the available payload. E. as D but with the maximum weight increased from 44 to approximately 50 tonnes to compensate for the increase in unladen weight (i.e. a payload neutral weight increase) F. as D but with the maximum weight increased to 60 tonnes (i.e. an increase in available payload) G. an increase in length to 34m, the number of axles to 11, and the maximum weight to 63 tonnes, giving the same net payload as F H. as G but with the maximum weight increased to 82 tonnes (i.e. a larger increase in available payload)

4. The report will now help inform Member States and the European Commission who are reviewing the rules on lorry sizes as part of the Logistics Action Plan to improve the efficiency of transport and logistics in the European Union.