Longer Semi-Trailers Could Become Permanent Following Successful Government Trial

Following the end of a trial which set out to explore the economic and environmental benefits of longer semi-trailers, the Department for Transport has concluded that they could operate on British roads outside of trial setting as early as January 2022. 

What is the Longer Semi-Trailer Trial? 

A longer semi-trailer is approximately 2.050 metres longer than a standard 13.6 metre trailer and can carry up to eight additional UK pallets to decrease the number of individual deliveries that have to be made – and therefore reduce carbon emissions. 

In January 2012, the Department for Transport began a trial of longer semi-trailers for articulated goods vehicles. Aiming to inform policy makers on whether the use of longer semi-trailers would bring about environmental and economic benefits, the trial itself was expected to save more than 3,000 tonnes of CO₂ and benefit the economy by £33 million.  

The trial was not planned to run for more than ten years, but in 2017, the government expanded the trial to run for an extra five years until 2027 and to include an additional 1,000 LSTs – taking the total number to approximately 2,800. 

Ending the Longer Semi-Trailer Trial 

In the ninth year of the trial, the Department for Transport published its response to the consultation on the future operation of LSTs outside of trial conditions. Taking into consideration the 31 responses they were supplied with; it was decided that LSTs should be allowed into general circulation with light regulatory control on their use. 

This decision was influenced by the belief that a point had been reached where no further useful results are likely to be obtained through a continuation of the trial. Instead, any remaining concerns, such as those relating to safety, must be assessed beyond trial settings. 

When Will LSTs be Used Outside of Trial Settings? 

Although the trial was originally planned to run until 2027, we can expect to see long-semi trailers used outside of trial settings as early as next year. 

The response published by the DfT states that “depending on parliamentary time and resources the ability to operate LSTs outside the trial is envisaged to start in January or April 2022.”. 

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