* New trucks will have streamlined look
* Industry divided because of long life of old cabs
* Fuel savings could compensate for extra cost
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, April 15 European trucks will be
transformed to make driver cabs more aerodynamic, cutting
emissions and improving safety, under new rules backed by EU
politicians on Tuesday that could divide the industry due to the
Campaigners hailed the vote at the European Parliament in
Strasbourg as the beginning of the end of trucks' brick-shaped
cabs blamed for cyclist and pedestrian deaths because of poor
Cabs of the future should be longer, with sloping noses
similar to the shape of high-speed train.
Data from the European Transport Safety Council found nearly
4,300 people died in collisions involving lorries in the
European Union in 2011, the latest available statistics.
Jeannot Mersch, president of the European Federation of Road
Traffic Victims, said EU governments, which must agree to the
rules before they become law, had "a moral obligation to embrace
this hugely beneficial decision".
"Weakening, delaying or blocking the decision would be
unforgivable," he said.
EU member states are not expected to finalise their position
until around the end of the year.
Apart from the safety aspect, the non-aerodynamic shape of
lorries adds to transport emissions, which the United Nations in
its latest report on climate change on Sunday said were set to
become the world's biggest source of planet-warming CO2.
So far the EU has introduced legislation to cut carbon
emissions from cars and vans, but has not set goals for trucks,
although the European Parliament is calling for that. The
emissions goals are achieved through better design to improve
Tuesday's vote follows the European Commission's
announcement last April that it was relaxing limits on cab size
to allow space for a more streamlined nose.
At the time, the Commission, the EU executive, said
manufacturers, such as Daimler and Volvo,
could improve designs immediately if they wanted to, while the
European Parliament is calling for the changes to be mandatory
for all new lorries by 2022.
A problem for Volvo, for instance, is that it began rolling
out new truck designs in 2012, so it could be at a disadvantage
if competitors begin introducing models according to the new
Volvo was not immediately available for comment, but the
European Automobile Manufacturers' Association said the
parliamentary position "does not accommodate the extremely long
lead-time for the research and development required of the 15
year product lifecycle of a cab".
The more aerodynamic cabs would increase the cost of a new
lorry by between 400 euros and 1,500 euros, according to
industry estimates, but German research institute FKA said the
difference could be paid for by fuel savings within a year.
(Additional reporting by Niklas Pollard in Stockholm; Editing
by John O'Donnell and Mark Potter)