ASLEF poll: Red Light to 60 Tonne

11 August 2005

An opinion survey carried out last weekend by NOP shows that over two-thirds of the public are opposed to a proposal – currently under consideration by government - to increase by one-third the length and weight of lorries permitted on the UK’s roads.


The survey was commissioned by the train driver’s union ASLEF. Its General Secretary, Keith Norman, said, ‘I hope the results of this poll will convince the government to tell the road haulage industry immediately, and in no uncertain terms, that there will be no increase in the length or weight of lorries using UK roads.


‘At the moment the maximum allowed is 44 tonnes: to increase this by a third in the face of enormous public opposition would be irresponsible in the extreme.’


The NOP survey, conducted over the weekend of 5-7 August, pointed out that ‘the government is considering legislation which would allow, on a trial basis, 60 tonne lorries, which are more than one third longer and heavier than the present legal limit, on our roads.’


The questions, and responses, were as follows:

  • Would you be likely to support this, or not?


The survey showed 67% opposed and 23% in favour with 10% undecided..

  • A possible alternative would be for the Government, through planning policy and funding, to encourage more freight to go by rail. Would you be likely to support this alternative or not?


The survey showed that 86% favoured the freight on rail alternative, with 9% saying ‘no’ with 5% undecided.


The union says it was pleased, but not surprised by the response. Keith Norman again:


‘When John Prescott agreed to increase lorry size from 32 tonnes to 44 three years ago, he had been convinced by the road haulage lobby that it would lead to less lorries on the road. You don’t need a university investigation to know this has not happened: you need a pair of eyes.


‘Another reason the road haulage lobby dredged up to support size and weight increases is that there is a ‘national shortage of drivers’. This almost defies belief! The two words that spring to mind are ‘training’ and ‘wages’. How difficult was that?


‘The biggest lorries allowed on UK roads are 44 tonnes and are 16.5 metres long. The ones being touted by SCANIA are 60 tonnes with an overall length of 25.25 metres. The proposal has got ‘hazard’ written all over it. How safe would it be to overtake one of these road-train monsters?


‘There is evidence from the last size and weight increases that rail freight declines when lorries get bigger. This takes us into arguments about the environment and road congestions – two exceedingly hot political potatoes.


‘We have made commitments about the environment at Kyoto which freight on rail can help us honour. Let’s seize that opportunity rather than go along with rail train monsters.


‘Quite rightly, Transport Minister Alistair Darling is actively considering ways of relieving congestion on our road: clogging them up with longer lorries should not therefore be anywhere near his agenda.


‘I hope last weekend’s independent and professional survey will play a major part in ridding the UK of 60 tonne lorry proposals stone dead - now.


‘The proponents of these changes talk about a trial. What is there to trial? We all know a polluting, unsafe mobile hazard when we see one.’




 The research was carried out by NOPworld group. Results were weighted in order to be nationally representative.


For further information from ASLEF please contact


Chris Proctor ( 07714 504 410 (mobile) 020 7317 8600 (office)


Nick Wright ( 07976 943514 (mobile) 020 7317 8600 (office)






We are talking about 60 tonne vehicles today – but we have now heard about another application made to the Department for Transport for the experimental use of an 84 tonnes lorry – a double articulated vehicle!!






- the case against allowing 60 tonne lorries

1 Forty-four tonne lorries already do extensive damage to cities, towns and villages, causing vibration, noise and intimidation. Bigger lorries would undoubtedly mean bigger problems.

2 Existing lorries are involved in 22 per cent of fatal crashes but only account for 7 per cent of road traffic. Bigger lorries can only mean more deaths. (Source Department for Transport 2004)

3 The increase from 32 to 38-tonne lorries saw five rail-served stone depots in Manchester close almost overnight. (Source Railfuture Freight Committee)

4 As lorries get larger, the proportion of freight carried by rail is likely to decrease. Rail currently only accounts for 8 per cent of freight. Rail is the real low-emission choice, not ever larger road transport.

5 The Road Haulage Association wishes to see lorries allowed to travel at 50mph on single carriageway roads instead of the existing 40mph limit. This would result in more road crashes and deaths. (Source RHA)

6 An average freight train can remove 50 HGVs from our roads. An aggregates freight train can remove 120 HGVs from our roads. (Source Network Rail 2004)

7 HGV road haulage increased by 2.9 per cent and LGV road haulage increased by 5 per cent in 2004. (Source Department for Transport 2005)

8 Some experts believe that 60-tonne lorries should be allowed on motorways but once allowed on motorways, it is only a small step before they are allowed to use other roads.

9 Many residents would argue that 44-tonne lorries cause huge damage to their communities and that existing legislation and enforcement of lorry bans does not give enough protection to communities. Many communities find it difficult to get a lorry ban or loading/unloading-only restrictions in place and others find that bans and restrictions are ignored and the police rarely if ever enforce them.


(Thanks to Transport 2000 for additional research)

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