December 11, 2014 / 9:12 AM / in 4 years

New EU truck safety and efficiency law faces years of delay

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has agreed to a law to make trucks safer but implementation could take up to eight years after industry pushed for time to develop designs expected to save both lives and fuel.

Trucks are pictured at a custom terminal at the border check point near Brest, November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

The law, agreed late on Wednesday, will allow trucks to have longer, more aerodynamic noses similar to the shape of high-speed trains, but the European Commission will first have to draft safety requirements and member states agreed to a three-year moratorium to allow manufacturers to develop designs.

Some, led by France and Sweden, had originally pushed for a five-year moratorium. Truckmakers such as Sweden’s Volvo and France’s Renault also called for a delay and were backed by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA).

“Trucks are not developed overnight, but instead are the product of long-term research and development,” said ACEA Secretary-general Erik Jonnaert.

However, the European Commission, which proposed the law, and the European Parliament wanted to allow the new cab designs as soon as possible, arguing that trucks’ brick-shaped cabs hamper drivers’ visibility, leading to cyclist and pedestrian deaths.

EU lawmakers and environmental campaigners said the process would delay the introduction of the new truck designs, originally expected around 2017, to about 2022.

“This deal signals the end of dangerous and inefficient brick-shaped trucks,” said William Todts of environmental campaign group Transport & Environment.

“But the absurd and unprecedented decision to impose a ban on new lorry designs until 2022 casts a dark shadow over the agreement.”

Additionally, the new designs will not be mandatory, as the European Parliament had demanded, but merely voluntary.

Transport & Environment said that delays would come at the expense of road safety, the environment and the economy as fuel bills would be higher.

Trucks are twice as deadly as cars, accounting for 15 percent of all fatal collisions in Europe, according to the European Transport Safety Council.

Wednesday’s agreement needs to be formally approved by individual member states.

Additional reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Jason Neely

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