Weights and Dimensions of Commercial Vehicles (cepPolicyBrief)


Heavy goods vehicles cause more than 6% of all greenhouse gases in Europe – and the trend is rising. The Commission wants to reduce CO2 emissions by promoting zero-emission vehicles and more efficient road freight transport. The Centre for European Policy (cep) supports the proposal but calls for fair competitive conditions for rail and inland waterway transport.


“Updating the specifications for the maximum permissible dimensions and weights of commercial vehicles and harmonising them across Europe is fundamentally appropriate. This will avoid potential distortions of competition in the internal market. It also creates incentives to increase efficiency and decarbonise the transport sector,” says cep transport expert Martin Menner, who analysed the Commission's proposal with cep lawyer Götz Reichert. “We welcome the approval of five-axle trucks with a maximum weight of 40 tonnes. This is because they make it possible to transport a larger quantity of goods per journey without overloading the infrastructure,” says Menner. “The approval of road trains up to 44 tonnes and European Modular Systems (EMS) – i.e. particularly long road trains – in cross-border transport also increases efficiency and contributes to the decarbonisation of road transport.”

At the same time, however, the cep experts warn against an increase in road freight transport at the expense of the more environmentally friendly “combined transport” – i.e. transport both by lorry and predominantly by rail or ship. “Combined transport causes far lower external costs – such as air pollution, accidents and traffic jams. However, it is threatened to be cannibalised if new competitive disadvantages compared to pure road freight transport are not compensated for. The EU needs to step up its game here,” says Menner.