France's rail freight sector voices strong opposition to 'mega' trucks 18/03/24

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Author: Stuart Todd



France's rail freight sector voices strong opposition to 'mega' trucks


France’s rail freight sector has voiced strong opposition to the European Union’s move to introduce ‘mega’ lorries of more than 25 metres in length and weighing up to 60 tonnes.


Trucks in France currently have a maximum length and weight of 19 metres and 40 tonnes, respectively. Speaking on French TV, Alexandre Gallo, President and CEO of DB Cargo France and President of the Association Française du Rail (AFRA), warned that the arrival of the mega trucks would very likely trigger a massive shift in freight from rail to road – accounting for approximately 20-30 per cent of combined transport.

“It would have a catastrophic effect and would mean 30 per cent less activity in the sector, 30 per cent fewer workers and a reduction of 30 per cent in equipment. Moreover, a significant level of investment would not be undertaken, and the French rail network would no longer be able to be funded through a toll system,” he stressed.

Also read: EU Parliament’s plenary says yes to ‘monstertrucks’ after all

‘No sense whatsoever’

Last week, the European Parliament approved the increase in the weight of HGVs from 40 to 44 tonnes while also allowing cross-border operations for trucks weighing up to 60 tonnes. The text will be the subject of negotiations with the European Council and Commission.

Such HGVs are currently in service in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and Germany. Mega truck backers argue that their introduction would lower road transport’s carbon footprint—for example, one longer HGV would emit less CO2 than two separate smaller ones.

However, Karima Delli, Euro MP representing France’s Green Party (EELV), said that mega trucks made no sense whatsoever from an environmental perspective. “Their introduction would mean an extra 10 million HGVs on the roads in the years to come, generating more than six million tonnes of CO2 annually,” she claimed.

Delli also underlined that the infrastructure serving France’s road network—barriers, roundabouts, bridges, and tunnels—was not adapted to mega trucks.

Also read: MEPs approve Weights and Dimensions Directive to rail’s dismay

Shippers support measures

Alliance 4F (Fret Ferroviaire Français du Futur), representing all players in the French rail freight sector, called on the French government to protect its citizens and reject using mega trucks in cross-border traffic. It said their introduction would be “in complete opposition to the commitments made in the Paris COP Agreements and the European Green Deal.”

In the same vein, Ivan Stempezynski, President of France’s combined transport association (GNTC), observed: “There is a clear lack of coherence and rigour in managing priorities by our institutions. What use are all the measures that have been taken to promote the development of rail freight if they are undermined by a text from Brussels?”

By contrast, the French shippers association (AUTF) said it supported the changes proposed by the European Commission, which would “make it possible to maximise the payload of heavy goods vehicles within a framework of gradual and realistic decarbonisation, without undermining the development potential of bulk freight”.


Author: Stuart Todd