In a bid to expedite the uptake of electric and hydrogen trucks, the European Union has put forth a new proposal to increase weight limits for zero-emission trucks.
The objective of these new limits is to ensure that trucks on long-haul routes, which require larger batteries, do not have to compromise on cargo weight. Once the law is enacted, electric or hydrogen trucks will be allowed to weigh up to 2 tonnes more.
The decision to raise weight limits under the EU Weights and Dimensions Directive has been welcomed by the environmental organization Transport and Environment (T&E), as it supports greener trucking practices. In 2019, an additional 2-tonne weight allowance was already granted to zero-emissions trucks to accommodate battery electric vehicles. However, this was deemed insufficient to prevent payload losses in long-haul trucks, leading to the proposal for additional weight allowances.
T&E emphasises that truck manufacturers also bear the responsibility of transitioning to new designs for electric trucks, known as “clean sheet” designs, which prioritize resource efficiency and lighter vehicles. Bernardo Galantini, freight officer at T&E, explains, “Electric trucks with ranges of around 500 km are coming to the market in the next two years. The extra weight allowance will accelerate their roll-out by ensuring that no payload will be lost to accommodate batteries. This will make long-haul electric trucks more attractive to hauliers and shippers.”
The draft law also includes provisions for regulating mega trucks or gigaliners, which are truck and trailer combinations measuring 25.25 meters in length, nearly 9 meters longer than standard trucks on European highways.
While some member states currently permit gigaliners to cross borders, the legality of such bilateral agreements has been in question. The proposed law aims to establish regulations for these agreements. T&E emphasizes that the proposed legislation would not extend the use of gigaliners to member states that do not allow them.
According to T&E, safeguards are necessary when seeking approval for these bilateral agreements. They argue that to ensure genuine reductions in climate emissions, the agreements should require all cross-border gigaliners to be zero-emission by 2035 and mandate that half of large fleets be zero-emission by 2030. Additionally, gigaliners should not travel on roads where they pose a risk to cyclists and pedestrians.