European Union proposals affecting the length of semi-trailer trucks and cabs are set to have a dramatic effect on European cab-over truck designs and will also allow for folding aerodynamic aids to be fitted to the rear of trailers.
The proposal was passed by the European Parliament in April and backed by EU Transport Ministers in June. Under the new proposal, new truck designs will become mandatory in 2022 and will only be a voluntary requirement in the meantime. The European Parliament wanted the new designs to be mandatory sooner and may still press for earlier implementation.
The revised regulations will not open the way for U.S.-style conventional truck cabs. The proposals will allow for a cab extended forward to accommodate a more rounded front for improved aerodynamics. According to information published by the EU, the new design will improve aerodynamic flow by 12%, which is expected to yield fuel consumption savings of between 3-5% for long-haul trucks. For a truck covering 100,000 km (62,140 mi) per year, it is estimated that this would reduce fuel costs by approximately €5,000 per year.
The longer front overhang has been designed to accommodate more energy-absorbing material to reduce the effect of an impact on other road users, reducing injuries and damage. Estimates suggest this could save the lives of between 300 and 500 vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists, each year across the EU.
The revisions are also designed to accommodate a larger windscreen to reduce blind spots around the cab. The cab changes will provide more interior space, which could provide more work and rest space for drivers.
The proposal also includes an increase in gross vehicle weight of 1000 kg (2205 lb). This is designed to make an allowance for fitting an alternative fuel or hybrid drivetrain, without impacting the vehicle’s payload. This could clearly reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions further, without affecting the vehicle’s “earning capacity.”
The original proposal included provision to include weight sensors in the redesigned vehicles to try and reduce the incidence of vehicle overloading on European roads. This provision has not been included in the final proposal.
The proposals have been given a cool reception from ACEA, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, which has been keen to avoid mandatory changes.
ACEA has commented, “Should it become mandatory to redesign truck fronts in order to improve their fuel-efficiency performance, the lead time granted to the industry must reflect the complexity and expense of this exercise, bearing in mind that trucks are very complex to design and are also produced in small volumes. This lead-time should respect the product lifecycle for a new truck, which is on average 10-15 years. This means that manufacturers need to know about a new regulatory framework several years before its implementation.”
The organization also believes that using cameras and sensors around the cab will provide a quicker way to improve safety. The aerodynamic and impact performance improvements offered by the new regulations will almost certainly mean that the designs will be adopted in time.