Page last updated at 04:49 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Concern as haulage firm rolls out 25m 'superlorry'

Richard Scott
Transport correspondent, BBC News

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Richard Scott takes the 25m supertruck for a spin

A "superlorry" that is nearly 30ft (nearly 9m) longer than normal could be coming to Britain's roads.

The longer, heavier vehicle is 25.25m (83ft) long. In comparison, a normal articulated lorry is 16.5m (54ft) long and a "bendy-bus" is 18m (59ft).

The owner, Denby Transport, wants to bring it to Britain's roads because it says that for lightweight goods such as cereals and aluminium cans, conventional lorries run out of space before they run out of weight.

This new lorry would be able to take more of these goods, even though it would still have to respect the UK weight limit of 44 tonnes.

Denby says two of these new lorries could replace three existing trucks.

It argues that fewer lorries on the roads would mean fewer accidents and less CO2 emissions.

Legal questions

The company has been working on this project for nearly eight years and has also modified the lorry's middle set of wheels so they can be steered too. This means it has the same turning circle as a conventional articulated lorry.

We're trying to clarify and test the law - we're not trying to flout it."
Dick Denby, Denby Transport

The problem is, it's not clear if the lorry is legal.

Denby's lawyers say it is, as it complies with all the current regulations.

The government disagrees, saying it is illegal and that it will not be allowing longer vehicles on the roads for the foreseeable future.

The problem lies around the interpretation of "towing implement"' in the regulations.

The Department for Transport argues this refers to recovering a vehicle after an accident or breakdown.

Supertrucks

But the company says the regulations do not specify that this towing implement cannot carry a load - so they are able to run it as a trailer.

To try to work out exactly what is allowed, the company has told the police that on Tuesday it is going to take its supertruck out onto the road.

Its hope is that it will get a definitive answer - even if that means being prosecuted and having a test case in the courts.

"We're trying to clarify and test the law - we're not trying to flout it," says Dick Denby, from Denby Transport.

"If the law decides they are illegal we'll pull it off the roads. If the law decides they are quite legal, everyone who wants one can have one."

But campaigners argue that despite the tight turning circle, these bigger lorries are simply not suited to Britain's roads, and would take freight away from rail.

Stephen Joseph, from the Campaign for Better Transport, believes there are more questions to be answered.

"The question about these mega-trucks is where do you stop? So we get 25m lorries that can carry 44 tonnes, then they'll carry 60 tonnes, do we then end up with 50m lorries carrying 100 tonnes - where does this stop?

"The freight industry can always make an argument that if we have bigger lorries we'll have fewer lorries - it hasn't happened in the past, it won't happen in the future."



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