‘Super lorries’ to the rescue for less traffic, fewer emissions?

How could shipping expenses, carbon emissions and time wasted in traffic all be reduced at once? One expert believes the answer lies with high-capacity vehicles, or HCVs.

We might call them “extra-long trucks” or “super lorries,” but — whatever you call them — they could help to make a meaningful dent in the number of commercial vehicle journeys on the road, according to David Leach, a transport and logistics expert at the University of Huddersfield.

“I think that in the right circumstances, for companies that transport lightweight goods in large quantities, from distribution site to distribution site, HCVs would be an undoubted benefit and would lead to a reduction in carbon emissions,” Leach said.

Larger, longer vehicles wouldn’t mean heavier wear on roads because they wouldn’t carry heavier loads … just more of lighter ones, Leach said.

“You are increasing the cubic capacity of the vehicle but you are reducing the maximum weight of goods that it can carry,” Leach said. “This means that HCVs will only be of value to companies that distribute lightweight goods, such as snack foods, tissues and packaging materials.”

Perhaps it should then comes as no surprise that Leach’s research was sponsored by Kimberly-Clark, known for lightweight personal-care products like facial tissue, toilet paper and disposable diapers.

Technical innovations have helped make HCVs more maneuverable — hence, safer — than they once were, according to Leach. He added the shift wouldn’t necessarily threaten the rail industry either,  as HCVs can’t be used for many of goods typically shipped by rail — steel, coal and aggregates, for example.

In the UK, full adoption of light-load, HCV hauling could lead to annual transport cost savings of £226 million (around $360 million), according to Leach’s research. It could also reduce carbon emissions by some 96,000 tons a year and cut the total distance travelled by large vehicles by up to 4 percent, helping to relieve traffic congestion.

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