* Cab size now limited by law
* Changes take time, but outline regulations mark a start
* Streamlining on market in the United States
* Proposals allow megatrucks to cross some borders
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, April 15 European trucks of the future
should have longer, rounded, more aerodynamic cabs to save fuel
and cut down on accidents, and adopt some innovations already on
the road in the United States.
The European Commission estimates that its new rules
regarding trucks, being outlined on Monday, could save around
5,000 euros ($6,600) per year in fuel costs.
They also would cut emissions by 7-to-10 percent for the
typical truck, which covers 100,000 km (60,000 miles) annually.
In addition, the proposals can help to save the lives of some
300-to-500 cyclists and pedestrians killed in Europe each year
in accidents involving trucks.
"A brick is the least aerodynamic object you can imagine and
so we are going to improve the shape of the lorries on our
roads," EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said in a
Campaign groups representing those killed in collisions with
heavy goods vehicles - whose angular, brick-shaped cabs impair
driver visibility - have spent years demanding change.
Jeannot Mersch, president of the European Federation of Road
Traffic Victims, called for enforcement as soon as possible.
"Lorries have an infamous reputation when it comes to road
safety, and rightly so," he said in a statement. "Currently, a
frontal crash with a lorry is like hitting a brick wall."
The EU process of securing endorsement of member states and
parliament can take around 18 months and often dilutes the force
of Commission proposals as industry lobbies against them.
But discussion to relax existing law that limits the length
of lorry cabs can begin immediately and give manufacturers, with
long planning cycles, guidance on future requirements.
A Commission official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
said change should happen quickly. Already, so-called "boat
tails" - retractable flaps, which can be added to the back of
vehicles - are in use in the United States, he said.
The cost was around 2,000 to 3,000 euros ($2,600-$3,900),
but that is recovered in one or two years through fuel savings.
"Some manufacturers are very keen on what we are doing.
Others, however, have recently spent a lot of money making the
current generation of trucks, which might be rendered obsolete a
little quicker," another Commission official said, also speaking
on condition of anonymity.
He declined to name truck makers and none was immediately
available for comment.
Environment campaign group Transport & Environment said the
rules were "a turning point".
"The proposal is a small step towards freight transport fit
for the 21st century," T&E policy officer, William Todts, said.
His one criticism was that the Commission proposes to allow
25-m (yard-) long trucks, to travel between adjoining member
states provided both countries allow vehicles of that length.
"The Commission has opened the door to cross-border use of
megatrucks in Europe without appropriate guarantees for both
citizen safety and environmental protection. We need better
trucks, not bigger trucks," Todts said.
($1 = 0.7635 euros)