New regulations allowing use of longer semi-trailers

New regulations allowing the use of longer semi-trailers (LSTs) will come into force in the autumn, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

In proceeding with DfT’s preferred policy option – allowing general circulation of LSTs with additional regulatory controls – several control mechanisms will be enforced to control their use in general circulation, along with annual reports and regulation to monitor their continued use and compliance.

It follows a 10-year trial of the vehicles, which can be up to 15.65m in length, found them to be safer, more economical and better for the environment.  

The DfT had published its response to its consultation on the introduction of LSTs in August 2021.

It is estimated LSTs could remove up to one in eight freight journeys by carrying the same amount of cargo in fewer lorries. 

The consultation considered the general circulation of longer semi-trailers (LSTs); LSTs being removed from circulation altogether; what level of additional regulation LSTs should be subject to and issues regarding safety hazards.

More than half (57%) of respondents felt that LSTs should be in general circulation and could see the positive effects for the industry and environment.

Some two in five respondents (43%) felt they should be removed from circulation entirely, while around a third (31%) agreed that they should brought into general circulation with no restrictions on numbers.

The 43% of respondents who felt LSTs should be removed entirely were private individuals, campaigns and charities concerned with road user safety.

Most stated their opposition to LSTs being used in urban areas or on minor roads, where the exposure to vulnerable road users is increased.

The future operation of LSTs will include their use under the regulatory regime applicable to commercial operators of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), including operator licensing legislation.

The main purpose of goods vehicle operator licensing is to ensure the safe and proper use of goods vehicles and to protect the environment around operating centres.

The licensing provisions include the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995(the Act), the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995, the Road Transport Operator Regulations 2011, and the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) (Fees) Regulations.

In the preferred policy option, other measures must be adhered to in addition to those outlined within an operator’s licence, says DfT.

These are designed to increase the safety of vulnerable and other road users and address road access concerns relating to minor and urban areas within the routes of LSTs.

These measures include: operators being required to undertake a risk assessment of the proposed route for the LST to ensure it is appropriate; operators being required to retain a record of all risk assessments undertaken prior to LST journeys; specific driver training, lasting a minimum of half a day; and operators being required to put in place a system to allow drivers to provide feedback on routes proposed and followed – a record of this feedback and response provided by the operator will be required to be kept on record.

Operators will also be required to undertake compliance checks to ensure LSTs are following the routes set and to take appropriate action where deviations are identified, and to ensure that there is a process for managing the effects of road closures.

DfT said that the use of LSTs contributes to the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan and may feed into other multimodal activities throughout Great Britain.

The assessment of option 1 is that it would lead to HGV milage reductions, which in turn would lead to a reduction in congestion and emissions of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants.

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