The Department for Transport (DfT) has opened a consultation into plans for a limited trial of six-axle artics with a maximum laden weight of 48 tonnes during domestic intermodal journeys, which it says could improve efficiency and support rail freight.
The additional weight of rail containers and specialised trailers means that intermodal freight movements customarily have lower payloads. The move would therefore cut operating costs for freight operators combining road and rail transport.
The standard maximum laden weight for six-axle artics on public roads in Great Britain is 44 tonnes, but DfT says that heavier lorries could be permitted for repetitive container loads that travel along a set route.
“Increasing the load capacity for each lorry involved could reduce the number of lorry movements to service each train, with the operations liable to happen frequently, feeding into scheduled trains operating on one or more days a week,” said the department.
“The core of the proposal is for six-axle articulated lorries run by specific operators to operate at 48 tonnes, while continuing to follow other existing rules, including maximum axle weights.
“These operations would be restricted to specific routes, likely be limited to a maximum journey length (proposed to be 50 miles) [and] have to be part of domestic intermodal (road and rail) operation.”
DfT has conducted a preliminary technical assesssment, and suggests “significant public benefits” may result if such operations help rail freight corner a larger market share.
It is now inviting commercial road transport operators interested in taking part in a potential trial to register their interest, and provide technical information.
Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, said it welcomed the trial and supported the idea that the ability to operate at 48 tonnes on domestic intermodal work would improve supply chain efficiency.
“It is proposed that the trial will allow six-axle articulated lorries to run at 48 tonnes by specific operators and will comply with existing constrains of the current road infrastructure, such as bridge capacity,” said Phil Lloyd, head of engineering policy at Logistics UK.
“As a result, some current routes may not be permissible…
“Allowing a 48-tonne operation would… enable a reduction in the number of journeys required to service each train, resulting in reduced road congestion and lower emissions.”
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said it had “long called for” for the move.
Chief executive Richard Burnett commented: “Safely increasing the trucks’ payloads makes perfect sense as it would mean fewer journeys, therefore making the supply chain more efficient and cost-effective.
“We’re delighted the DfT has listened and wants to work with our industry to see if we can make it happen.”
The consultation is open until 4 January, and can be accessed here.