Whenever anyone asks themselves what a megatruck is, one of two images will most likely come to mind: the first of which is somewhat more realistic, involving huge vehicles crossing the American or Australian road network at full speed. The other is more like something from a movie scene, depicting the spectacular brightness of Optimus Prime from the Transformer movies. Their common denominators are their large dimensions alongside the large amount of cargo that they can transport, as well as the savings in costs involved and this is what we are going to focus on in our post.
Megatrucks are enormous vehicles (the ones on Australian roads can measure up to 53.5 meters), and these “road monsters” or “road trains”, as some of them have been referred to, are very useful in commercial applications. While their use is already established in the US or Australia, this is not quite the case in Europe. Certain countries such as Finland and Sweden have pioneered their use (which have been circulating on Swedish roads since 1995), as well as on motorways in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal. However, they are still being road tested in Germany and France, while other countries such as the United Kingdom, Austria or Switzerland, their use on the roads is prohibited.
Megatrucks in Spain
What is the situation in Spain? These vehicles have been allowed to circulate on Spanish roads since the establishment of requirements for authorizing the circulation of megatrucks, dated 12 April, issued by the Directorate for Traffic. A month previously on 2 March, the first road tests open to traffic between the provinces of Madrid and Segovia were carried out, giving the green light to the use of these large trucks.
The Directorate General of Traffic refers to them as “European Modular System vehicles” and are smaller than their antipodal counterparts, up to 25.25 meters long and a maximum mass of 60 tonnes. Cargo cannot exceed the vehicle floor plans and must be transported on the motorway, highway or any conventional roads with separate carriageways for both directions of traffic lanes. It also specifies that conventional routes on a single carriageway may be included if necessary to arrive to a location where the megatruck is to carry out any loading or unloading operations.
The note from the Directorate General of Traffic’s presentation of the regulations for these vehicles is also the key point, or rather, the key points to the use of megatrucks in Spain: “The purpose of this type of vehicle group is to improve efficiency and safety in road transport, while allowing a more competitive operation of the markets.”
And, as has been pointed out by experts, their load capacity (up to 60 tonnes) would allow a reduction of costs in the logistics sector (estimated to be up to 30%), reducing HGV vehicle traffic while also helping to preserve the environment, thanks to lower rate of CO2 emissions. The estimated figures from the Spanish Association of Automobile and Truck Manufacturers, ANFAC back this up, estimating an annual profit of 700,000 million in terms of CO2 emission reductions. Moreover, the same association estimates savings of 110,000 million euros in logistics in the automotive industry.
Megatrucks- yes or no?
Like in any other cases of something new, megatrucks have their supporters and detractors. For some of them, national infrastructure (roads, crossings, car parks, etc.) are not designed nor prepared for the maintenance or use of this type of freight transport, above all to access industrial estates, logistics centers and companies that are located some distance from main networks. In short, preparation and maintenance costs are required to allow their circulation on certain roadways.
Distribution companies, on the other hand, have been more receptive, viewing these megatrucks as a great opportunity to reduce transport costs. In fact, companies such as Carrefour and Mercadona already use this type of vehicle.
Will this new means of goods transportation work in Spain? Only time will tell.