Freight is the backbone of the EU’s single market: it keeps supermarkets, factories and pharmacies in stock and enables European businesses to sell their products across the continent and beyond. In 2020, around 6 million people worked in the EU freight transport sector.
But freight transport is also responsible for more than 30% of CO2 emissions from transport. As the EU economy grows, emissions are likely to rise if decarbonisation measures are not taken: freight transport is expected to grow by around 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2050
Therefore, the European Commission’s proposal on measures aimed at making freight transport more efficient and sustainable is recent, improving the management of the railway infrastructure, offering greater incentives to low-emission trucks and improving information on the greenhouse gas emissions produced from freight transport. The aim is to increase the efficiency of the sector, helping it contribute to the goal of reducing transport emissions by 90% by 2050, as set out in the European Green Deal, while allowing the EU single market to continue to grow .
More than 50% of goods are transported by road in the EU (2020 data) and this sector contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. The current Weights and Dimensions Directive sets the maximum length, width and height for heavy goods vehicles. Today’s proposal revises these rules to allow for additional weight for vehicles using zero-emission technologies, as they tend to increase the weight of a vehicle.
This will incentivize the adoption of cleaner vehicles and technologies. Once the technology develops and zero-emission propulsion systems become lighter, including through the use of aerodynamic devices and cabs, the cleaner vehicles will benefit from an extra payload compared to conventional trucks.
More aerodynamic cabs and other energy-saving devices will also be encouraged, not only by improving driver comfort and safety, but also by increasing the efficiency of zero-emission powertrains, i.e. the mechanism that transmits power of the engine to move the vehicle.
The proposal will also clarify the use in cross-border traffic, under certain conditions, of heavier and longer vehicles, which are currently permitted in some Member States. This also means clarifying that Member States that authorize European Modular Systems (EMS) in their territories will also be able to use them in international operations between neighboring Member States, without the need for a bilateral agreement and without restrictions on crossing a single border. This means that the same amount of goods can be transported in fewer trips.
To encourage intermodal transport, where goods are transported using two or more modes of transport but with a standardized unit load (such as a container trailer or other), trucks, trailers and semi-trailers will be allowed to carry a weight additional. The extra height will also make it easier to transport high-cube containers in standard vehicles. The proposals will now be examined by the European Parliament and the Council under the ordinary legislative procedure.