Soon “mega trucks” on French roads? A European directive modifying the dimensions authorized for vehicles circulating in the European Union could open the door to the circulation of these heavy goods vehicles with extensions with two or three trailers, which we already see on Scandinavian roads. Already adopted in February by the Transport Committee of the European Parliament – despite the opposition of the three French elected officials who sit there -, it was ratified in plenary session this Tuesday March 12, by 330 votes for and 207 against.

For the rapporteur of the text, the Spanish socialist Isabel García Muñoz, these new rules should create “real incentives for companies to move to zero emissions” and make it possible to “transport the same load with fewer vehicles”. But not all elected officials have the same interpretation: most French MEPs voted against the prospect of seeing these mega trucks rolling in France. “Today’s vote goes against the objectives set by the Green Deal for decarbonization of transport,” denounces environmentalist MEP Karima Delli, president of the Transport committee.

Today, trucks circulating in France cannot measure more than 18.75 meters in length and weigh more than 44 tonnes. Each EU member state is free to set its own rules, but for heavy goods vehicles to be able to leave the country, a bilateral agreement with the neighbor is required if the dimensions of the vehicle exceed the thresholds set at community level (18.75 meters and 40 tonnes). Concretely, a mega truck that would like to go from Spain to Germany, even if it is authorized to drive in these two countries, cannot cross France if it does not allow it.

The new directive adapts these thresholds to facilitate the decarbonization of trucks, taking into account in particular the weight of the batteries, and thus generalizing the maximum weight to 44 tonnes. False argument, retorts Karima Delli: “We don’t have electric trucks today. This will just open Pandora’s box for diesel trucks, which could also be heavier.

Above all, its detractors worry, this directive would open the door to the circulation of the famous mega trucks, up to 25 meters long and weighing 60 tonnes, by facilitating their cross-border circulation which will be authorized without bilateral agreement if the neighboring country already authorizes them for domestic traffic. This poses “road safety problems, with a longer braking distance, traffic problems, problems with infrastructure that would not be suitable, not to mention the additional cost linked to greater wear and tear on the roads”, lists Karima Dell.

Under the guise of allowing more goods to be transported with a single truck, which would reduce CO2 emissions, the measure could in fact directly compete with rail freight. “The directive strongly compromises the development of rail freight and combined rail-road transport, the most virtuous (for the environment),” denounced the 4F alliance, which brings together French professionals in the sector. And to be annoyed by this text “pushed by the European countries champions of social dumping, whose trucks only cross France without paying the cost of infrastructure”.

Even if it maintains the possibility for States not to authorize mega trucks on their roads, this text, by encouraging their growth, “opens a breach [because] we do not know what other governments could do”, worries the French delegation of Renew (presidential majority). “We are creating polluting monsters,” insists Karima Delli, who is now calling on France to “make it clear that it does not want them.” “Our country is surrounded by countries that allow [mega trucks] and who are going to push for us to allow them too. We need to be clear on the issue.”

“France reiterates its refusal to liberalize the international circulation of 44-tonne trucks and “megatrucks,” reassured Transport Minister Patrice Vergriete on railway.” The European Council (member states) will adopt its position in June. It will then be up to the next parliamentary assembly, elected after the June 2024 elections, to begin negotiations to finalize the text.