It’s surprising how much fuel is required to push a brick-like truck along a road. We’ve already seen improvements in trailer design, with a curved top to help the air flow over the length cleanly, but the cabs themselves have little in the way of aerodynamic structure in place to help facilitate that.
Enter the European Commission, which has proposed new rules that would allow manufacturers to design and build more aerodynamic lorries, which in turn would reduce fuel consumption, which in turn would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The better designed cabs could also enhance safety for other road users as the driver’s field of vision would be greatly improved; welcomed news from vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, 300-500 of whom are killed in Europe each year due to accidents involving trucks.
The proposal estimates that with the new cabs, combined with aerodynamic flaps at the back of the trailer, a typical long-distance lorry covering 100,000km could save approximately €5,000 per year on fuel costs. Whilst the cabs themselves will be an expensive purchase, the cost would be covered in just a couple of years on fuel savings alone.
“A brick is the least aerodynamic object you can imagine and so we are going to improve the shape of the lorries on our roads,” EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said in a statement. The President of the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims, Jeannot Mersch, called for enforcement as soon as possible.
“Lorries have an infamous reputation when it comes to road safety, and rightly so,” he said in a statement. “Currently, a frontal crash with a truck is like hitting a brick wall.”
While some manufacturers are apparently on board with the proposed changes, others have only recently finished building the current generation of trucks that would soon be rendered obsolete as a result of the new design. Road transport accounts for around 70% of inland freight in Europe, but the sector is said to be struggling. These changes, utilising innovations already on the road in America, could be the boost the industry needs.
The proposal needs to be adopted by the European Parliament, and endorsed by all member states before it becomes law. Typically the process can take around 18 months and, if passed, the new, safer, streamlined trucks could be on the roads in just a few years.