Truck drivers like freight brokers

"Giga-Liner": Still undesirable in NRW

The Rhine-Ruhr area is criss-crossed by a number of transit highways for freight traffic. Large trucks over 20 meters in length have to go elsewhere for the time being.

Photo: Tom Jost

September 24, 2015

Freight forwarders and manufacturers want to save diesel and personnel by using longer truck trains - innovation 10/15

Even if you are called “Tagesschau”, the editors do not save yourself from reporting nonsense. "Giant trucks are allowed to drive on the entire road network in North Rhine-Westphalia", posted the flagship news on the topic of "Giga-Liner" at the end of July - in the middle of the holidays. Many a well-behaved driver of a vacation vehicle may have felt a cold sweat on their foreheads. Alone: ​​In this federal state, you will not see the oversized trucks more than 25 meters in length for the time being. But in the long term you have to think about it.

The discussion about over-long and over-heavy trucks has flared up again and again for a number of years. It is positively fueled in the sense of innovative capacity expansion primarily by two interest groups: truck manufacturers and freight forwarders. In the future, two vehicles could transport the load of three so far and save a lot of diesel, according to the support. Headwind is coming from concerned city planners, engineers and also the ADAC. Roundabouts are too small for such "monster trucks", motorways and bridges are subject to even greater loads ... and overtaking takes half an eternity. In addition, this means that even more freight is migrating from the rail to the road.

With the VSL, Dr. Rüdiger Ostrowski also works for Giga-Liner in North Rhine-Westphalia, Photo: VSL

The fact is: NRW is now officially one of the participants in the nationwide "Long Truck Field Trial" - albeit in a slimmed-down form. The state parliament only permitted the road use of extended articulated lorries, which consist of a tractor and a trailer. Instead of the previous 16.50 meters, 17.80 meters have been approved since summer. No talk of 25-meter lindworms, no talk of 60 tons of weight, because the permissible total load remains at 40 and 44 tons. The "jumbo articulated trains" with motor vehicles and trailers, which were previously used without any problems, measure a little more at 18.75 meters. "We approved the extension of the semitrailer so that we could leave the giant trucks outside," says Bernhard Meier from the NRW Ministry of Transport, describing the political strategy. "Giga" will first be tested in other federal states, on more than 10,000 approved route kilometers.

The background to this dispute is the dominant "groupage system" in freight transport. Mainly at night, the goods are sent to certain transshipment points. The load is redistributed at these so-called “hubs” and goes from Kassel to other hubs in Düsseldorf, Berlin, Spain or the Czech Republic, for example, in the opposite direction. “The long trucks should only be used on this regular service subject to approval,” demands Rüdiger Ostrowski as a member of the board of the North Rhine-Westphalia Forwarding and Logistics Association (VSL). Nobody wants to send the Giga-Liner through the cities, it is said in his house. In addition to groupage, there is also the transportation of light loads such as insulation materials or furniture. Adalbert Wandt, President of the Federal Association of Freight Transport and Logistics, adds that this type of transport has not yet been the domain of the railways.

Of course, releasing the Giga-Liners would also produce losers. Where three trucks are replaced by two large trucks, a third of the drivers deployed can be dispensed with. Actually no problem, they believe with the VSL, because the truck handlebars were missing on every nook and cranny anyway. It is no longer uncommon for a Cologne semitrailer to be driven by a Portuguese. In contrast to the forwarding agencies, which only act as freight brokers, the transport industry in particular would suffer: two tours bring less sales than three.

The whole development will be interesting from a different point of view - if in the future (perhaps) dozen of trucks traveling in the same direction were to be technically combined into controlled "transport systems". The “compulsory use of radar brakes” suggested by Rüdiger Ostrowski in his statement, in combination with automated lane keeping systems, would only require the truck driver on the motorway to switch on the cruise control. The right lane would then be filled with giga-liner columns. What effect would that have on the Rhine-Ruhr area with its motorways, where one exit and exit follows the next within a short distance? - At least a drastically increased production of fear sweat among the other road users.

The state government confirmed this spring that it wanted to handle the largest possible “proportion of traffic outside the streets”. With this, inland waterway vessels and the railways should get better capacity utilization in long-distance traffic. Of course, Minister Michael Groschek admits that the rail networks still need to be well developed for this. This includes, for example, the connection from Duisburg and Oberhausen to the Dutch “Betuwe” freight route as part of a rail link from Rotterdam to Genoa. The German-Dutch cooperation agreement celebrates its tenth birthday in November, and construction should start around the same time. "It seems realistic," said the Rheinische Post, "that it may take another four years."

Tom Jost

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