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article imageOp-Ed: The new EU truck regulations: Will they make a difference?

By James Walker     Apr 25, 2014 in Technology
On April 15 the majority of people at an EU conference voted in favour of introducing new measures to make Europe's trucks safer and more fuel efficient. Will the proposed measures actually make trucks any safer or less thirsty however?
The European Union's proposed measures are applicable only to the biggest trucks that are allowed on Europe's roads — standalone tractor units pulling articulated trailers laden with loads amounting to a maximum total of 44 tonnes — and focus primarily on restyling the design of the drivers' cab into a shape safer to cyclists, pedestrians and other road users in general whilst being more aerodynamically styled with more flowing curved lines than the more angularly-styled trucks of today in a bid to facilitate lower fuel consumption. It all sounds very good but is it really?
The EU thinks that in order to get their aerodynamic, fuel-efficient and safe trucks manufacturers should work to add a "sloping nose" to the front of the truck, taking styling inspiration for the design from high-speed trains such as Japan's infamous Bullet Train and France's TGV. New trucks should also have more, larger windows than current models in an effort to increase the drivers' visibility out of the cab and negate the impact of the substantial blindspots found beside the doors on existing vehicles.
A proposed  world s safest truck  design by the EU
A proposed "world's safest truck" design by the EU
AutoExpress
However, will these features actually make a difference to fuel economy and safety? I am of the opinion that they will not although I completely understand and support the original concept of making European trucks both safer to other road users and more environmentally friendly. What I do not support, however, is the EU's planned changes for trucks, highlighted above, in order to make the original concept a reality.
Let's start with the most substantial, fundamental change: the new curved bodywork and "sloping nose" that all trucks will be required to wear in order to minimize the appearance of the front of the vehicle as a "brick" — the term popularly used to refer to trucks because of the slab-like designs used by manufacturers during the 80s and 90s. Today, however, the description is already less true as manufacturers have sought to improve designs even without EU intervention so that today only the Renault Magnum really resembles a brick any more. Anyway, despite the latest models from the majority of manufacturers already exhibiting curved, spun roofs and bodywork, the EU still insists that trucks are bricks and that long noses should be fitted by manufacturers and incorporated into bodywork design as they believe that this will improve fuel consumption by making the truck more aerodynamic whilst also improving the safety of the vehicle as perceived by other road users.
In my opinion, however, this "sloping nose" may not necessarily deliver the effects that the EU wants it to. The added weight from the extended body could end up adding to the amount of fuel used by the vehicle or at the very least negate the effects of the decreased air resistance afforded by the new design idea. Although it probably would reduce the amount of damage caused to either the truck or a third-party vehicle in the event of an incident or collision on the road, again these effects are lightly to be negated by the decreased manoeuvrability of the vehicle because of the added length of the vehicle front. Unlike the long, bonneted trucks found in the 'States, European trucks are known for their surprising manoeuvrability thanks to their lack of a true bonnet and the positioning of the driver directly above the steering front wheels. However, this unlikely characteristic would likely be lost or at the least hindered by the lengthening of the front of the truck as desired by the EU.
The added glass required by the proposed new larger, extended windows will also only add to total vehicle weight and so increase fuel consumption. The larger windows will also add to air resistance, or drag, and so increase fuel consumption further not to mention the added fuel that will be required to heat or cool the cab according to the drivers' preference because of the added glass.
I do not believe that the new window design will especially increase safety, either. Despite the driver undoubtedly benefiting from the increased visibility afforded by the more expansive glasswork, he or she will still mainly be looking straight at the road ahead through the windscreen. Further, the added glass will make it easier for highway robbers to inside the cab at night. Rear visibility on any road-going vehicle is always, of course, best afforded by rear-view mirrors which, not-so coincidentally, the EU also has new planned designs for...
Mirrors must now be both larger in terms of reflective surface and yet slimmer in terms of encasement to, again, aid driver visibility beyond the windows and to yet the driver see more accurately the sides of the truck. Unfortunately, the EU doesn't really need to enforce this as truck manufacturers have already taken action on this by themselves. If you put a previous-generation Volvo FH next to a current model the change is very noticeable.
Truck manufacturers are also disgruntled by the new legislation, which if approved will be mandatory by 2022, as DAF, MAN, Iveco, Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Volvo — all major European truck makers in this category with the notable exception of Scania — have all released all-new versions of their flagship models within the past two years and model refreshes are not intended for many more years to come. The situation is further complicated as Swedish truck-giant Scania has not yet launched its new version of the R-series and is not due to until 2015. This means that should the EU give the go-ahead to the new legislation in a slightly refined form then Scania may be able to incorporate the requirements into its new vehicle ahead of launch and so have the upper hand above its competitors. Whereas an EU spokesman said that the other manufacturers would be allowed to refine their designs now to ensure fair competition, they are unlikely to want to do this due to the high cost involved in designing and creating a new truck.
In my opinion, this latest EU intention to make roads safer and trucks less fuel-hungry is severely flawed due to the introduction of 'refinements' to the vehicles that could serve to increase fuel consumption whilst making the trucks less enjoyable to drive, use and live in for the truckers. Although of course their are many views to the argument, realistically if the EU meets proper opposition from all the manufacturers in Europe then this will probably not get the go-ahead. Of course, the EU's actual goal of increasing safety and decreasing fuel consumption is undoubtedly extremely important and should be worked towards with all possible effort but in my opinion this could be executed in a more precise manner and without EU intervention as the truck manufacturers are working towards it themselves with every new model refresh and update. This way competition still remains within the truck industry too and styling can remain more distinctive between brands.
At the end of the day, however, trucks, despite progressing with every new model towards increased safety and decreased fuel consumption, are, despite being limited to mph, still dangerous to other road users — although often other road users, such as cyclists, inadvertently place themselves in danger due to lack of education of a trucker's point of view — and do drink fuel.
However, without them, I wouldn't be writing this.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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