© Juri Bizgajmer

Impending European legislation that would permit larger trucks on the continent’s roads has received sharp rebuke from industry and France alike, over concerns of the impact on intermodal operations.

Such is the pushback in France against the Weights and Dimensions Directive (WDD) of the Greening Freight Package that the National Assembly has urged government to oppose the legislation that would allow 44-tonne trucks on European roads.

Much of the concern appears to surround the impact this would have on both barge and rail freight operations across the continent, with inland consultant Gunther Ginckels of SeasC4U sharing the concerns of the French Parliamentary chamber.

Speaking to The Loadstar, Mr Ginckels said: “I have to agree with the French Assembly. There cannot be any doubt that cargo and containers have to be moved on the long stretches on barge and/or rail.”

Mr Ginckels said he could see some benefit in increasing truck tonnage restrictions from the present 40-tonne limit to 44-tonnes for last-mile transport over limited distances, for instance, from ports to inland hubs, but still questioned the logic.

“European roads are not only congested but also technically and as far as infrastructure goes unable to support such heavy transports, so it will result in faster deterioration of road infrastructure requiring frequent repairs at high cost,” he continued.

“So, the environmental impact is only a part of the challenges heavy loads cause. For long distance the key is synchromodality, where cargo is transported by a combination of modes, that results in positive economic and environmental effects.”

Permitting larger trucks on European roads comes at something of a transitional moment for European haulage, with a major push to get volumes onto rail and river – considered greener options – coming up against significant hurdles.

Not least of which has been concerns over the reliability of Europe’s inland waterways, both in terms of costs and schedules, with the major river terminals at Antwerp and Rotterdam subject to average congestion of more than one day.

And, over the past eight years, there have been multiple instances where congestion has lasted up to a week, a situation sources have repeatedly told The Loadstar is a consequence of barge operators refusing to share space for improved efficiency.

Mr Ginckels’ concerns surrounding the impact of larger trucks on European roads is one shared more broadly, with Railfreight citing a poll in which a majority of people opposed their introduction.

Unlike the French legislative branch, however, Mr Ginckels reemphasised his belief that permitting 44-tonne trucks – provided their use was severely restricted – could bring benefits in so far as getting supply chains moving fluidly and efficiently.

He added: “The most critical factor here is again the irresponsible lack of willingness by most chain players to share and exchange data needed to allow efficient interaction between transport modes.”

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