Information published on 17 January 2012 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 274.

Five questions and answers on longer vehicles. Railway crossings not suitable for Long Heavy Trucks

  • Safety

The so-called Gigaliners are not yet on the roads but they have for months been the cause of heated debate. Now there are new concerns. “The signal lights and control of the barriers on level crossings in Germany were not designed for longer vehicles (LHVs). The current clearance times were calculated for the regular HGV maximum length of 18.75 metres. Once Gigaliners have started to be used in several federal states there could be some severe accidents,” warned Michael Ziesak, vice chairman of the German Pro-Rail Alliance.

Additionally, car drivers would barely be able to “recognise a monster truck before starting to overtake it.” Ziersak, who is also national chairman of the Verkehrsclub Deutschland, said on Wednesday in Berlin that “the Federal Transport Ministry stipulates in its exemption provision, which is valid from January 1, 2012, that the warning sign ’Long Vehicle’ only needs to be 13 cm high. When overtaking on national, regional or district roads it will be very hard to read this at a distance. Many car drivers will be half way through overtaking before they notice the additional 6.5 metres, and then it could be too late.”

It is also unpredictable whether the LHVs will only stay on the roads that the Federal Transport Ministry has designated for the trials. Several trials run by federal states in recent years reportedly showed that drivers did not always keep to the defined route.

What you also need to know about the 25.25 metre vehicles can be found here:

Five questions and answers on mega trucks

1. When will LHVs actually be on the roads?

According to federal transport minister Peter Ramsauer (from the CSU), the LHVs will be seen on the roads in the early part of 2012. During a conference in October 2011, Ramsauer said: “We want to begin with the first transport relations next year, once the snow has gone, sometime after Easter.” The federal transport ministry’s provision regulating the use of the LHVs has been in force since 01.01.2012.

2. Where exactly will LHVs be used?

The following federal states are allowing the use of longer vehicles: Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Hesse, Thuringia, Saxony and Bavaria.
The states of Baden-Württemberg and Saxony-Anhalt have government coalition agreements that expressly oppose participation in the trials. The federal government’s provision nevertheless allows journeys to be made through these federal states. Gigaliners are allowed to use 133 km of road in Baden Württemberg and 144 km in Saxony-Anhalt. In the meantime, Baden-Württemberg is intending to file a lawsuit against the federal government’s forced participation to the constitutional court.
Apart from motorways and federal roads, the federal government’s provision allows mega trucks to drive on numerous regional, district and local roads. The full list can be found in the appendix to the provision.

3. What are the supporters hoping for?

The supporters of longer vehicles are looking to achieve fuel savings of up to 30 percent and to reduce the number of vehicle journeys. This will result in lower emissions of C02 and reduce traffic congestion. The supporters of longer vehicles include the VDA, the German Automobile Industry Association, the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services, and various other road transport associations.

4. What are the opponents afraid of?

The opponents of longer vehicles are afraid that the cheaper HGV transport gained by using LHVs will be an incentive for more road freight transport. The cost advantage from LHVs could lead to goods being shifted back onto the roads from environmentally-friendly transport modes, resulting in more truck journeys and a greater environmental impact. The opponents of LGVs include the automobile clubs, environmental groups and railway companies that make up the Pro-Rail Alliance as well as the German Association of Cities and the German Police Union.

5. Can the LHV trials still be stopped?

The SPD and Green party factions in the federal parliament have agreed to file a lawsuit against the federal government’s provision for longer HGVs with the constitutional court. They are accusing the federal government of acting single-handedly without consulting the federal parliament or the upper chamber (Bundesrat). An assessment by the well-respected constitutional legal expert Prof. Dr. Ulrich Battis also came to the conclusion that the federal government’s provision is unconstitutional. Such a lawsuit will not delay the trials but it could block them after they have commenced.

The article is also available in German: