Setback for Duo Trailer implementation

Greater asset utilisation, addressing driver shortages and reducing CO2 emissions. Those are some of the benefits promised by Ewals Cargo Care’s Super Eco Combi (SEC) Duo Trailer Trucks. Unfortunately, the company suffered a setback last week as the Dutch Road Transport Authority (RDW) rejected field tests for the concept of a 32m long tractor and two trailer combination.

The SEC is among a range of Longer Heavier Vehicles (LHVs) trialled in the market. The first regular 13.6m trailer has some minor adaptations, enabling it to be linked by a dolly to the second trailer of the same size. The concept is fit for multimodal use, with Ewals hoping it could be used within international operations, with easy on- and off-boarding within short-sea shipping and rail freight.

In a video, Ewals gave the example of two domestic UK trucks that move goods from separate locations in the UK to a South-East port. The trailers are then lined up together, moved by short-sea to the Netherlands, and then move South of the country effectively as one truck. The trailers are then separated, linked up with individual tractor units and go towards different European destinations.

The RDW cited a number of reasons for rejecting further tests of the Super Eco Combis. Fuel station driveways could be blocked, whilst roundabouts and difficulties manoeuvring at corners could also be problematic. Furthermore, it was cautioned that traffic could be blocked at green lights, and cyclists and motorbikes could be endangered. In terms of infrastructure, the RDW was concerned that tyres and road surfaces could suffer extra wear due to the rigid axles effectively squeezing tyres over the tarmac.

Although rigid axles could be replaced by steerable ones, the rest of these issues appear not to be easily fixable. However, the RDW said: “The Super EcoCombi has a lot of potential and can play an important role in reducing CO2 emissions.” Perhaps then, accommodation for the solution can be found somehow.

Other types of LHVs are utilised throughout Europe, but on a limited basis. The EU has strict size and weight limits for vehicles, but due to their widespread use before accession to the EU, Sweden and Finland are able to utilise them more widely. In Finland, SECs now reportedly account for 46% of trunk hauls. With low population densities and quieter roads, these types of vehicle are more easily accepted. For similar reasons, longer vehicles, including turnpike doubles and road trains are sometimes seen on long haul routes in the US, Canada and Australia.

The spread of LHVs to more densely populated areas with more vehicles on the road has proven more difficult. In the Netherlands, the regular Eco Combi, with a maximum length of 25.25m are permittable whilst there are similar rules in Germany. In Spain, SEAT has been utilising duo trailers since a 2018 pilot phase, whilst XPO launched a pilot project in 2020.

As the road freight industry pivots towards greater carbon reduction, rule-makers and stakeholders will have to shift tact to be more accommodative of less carbon-intensive methods of transport. The SECs developed by Ewals could save carbon emissions by up to 27%. A study by the ACEA suggests reductions made by other high-capacity road transport methods could be in the 10%-40% range. The industry appears to be some way off the successful implementation of alternative fuels, meaning easier to implement solutions are critical in the push towards carbon reduction in the shorter term.

Source: Transport Intelligence, June 1, 2020

Author: Andy Ralls