The European Commission is to change its legal interpretation of maximum vehicle size to allow so-called mega-lorries to cross border.
Lorries that are longer than 18.75 metres or heavier than 40 tonnes (with cargo) have only been allowed on the roads on a trial basis within a member state. Member states operating such trials – including the Netherlands and Sweden – have criticised the Commission, saying that it is misinterpreting the law and that it does not actually prevent cross-border trials. These countries want to link up their trials and allow the mega-lorries to cross borders.
Siim Kallas, the European commissioner for transport, announced his intention to change the legal interpretation in March. But after a furious reaction from MEPs, who said such a change must be scrutinised by the Parliament, Kallas said that he would “reflect” on the issue.
In a letter sent yesterday (14 June) to Brian Simpson, the chairman of the Parliament’s transport committee, Kallas said he has decided to go ahead with the change. Allowing mega-lorries to cross borders is “the interpretation which is the most consistent with the text of the directive and the initial ambition of the legislator,” Kallas wrote.
Environmental campaigners are concerned that the change will mean countries that do not have mega-lorries on the roads will be pressured into doing so by their neighbours.
“The commissioner’s decision is incomprehensible,” said William Todts of green transport group T&E. “This move goes directly against the objectives he endorsed only a year ago. Lifting the ban on mega-lorries will see road freight numbers increase and that will obviously harm rail freight, which is generally more efficient on long distances.”
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The new interpretation is effective immediately. In his letter to Simpson, Kallas said MEPs will be able to express their opinion when a revision of EU laws on lorry dimensions is put forward later in the year.