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Same-Day Analysis

French, Swedish governments lobby EU to push back truck design legislation – report

Published: 15 May 2014

Lobbying by the French and Swedish governments is reportedly set to push back the intended introduction of new truck design legislation in the EU.



IHS Automotive perspective

 

Significance

Lobbying by the French and Swedish governments is reportedly set to push back the intended introduction of new truck design legislation in the EU.

Implications

The introduction of new trucks by Volvo and its Renault Trucks unit during the past year or so has led to them pushing for the introduction of new legislations to be moved back so that they can meet the new rules comfortably.

Outlook

Although many countries are pushing for the change, the latest report seems to suggest that the later 2025 date for the introduction of new regulations is likely to approved, which would be some relief to Volvo.

Lobbying by the French and Swedish governments is reportedly set to push back the intended introduction of new truck design legislation in the European Union (EU). According to documents seen by the Financial Times (FT), the new design rules which are intended to make heavy truck designs safer and more fuel efficient, the new rules are now expected to come into force by 2025, as opposed to 2022 as was originally proposed in the draft legislation. This is despite reported support for the current timeframe from Germany, Denmark and Ireland, according to the documents.

The lobbying appears to have been undertaken on behalf of Sweden's Volvo Group and its French unit, Renault Trucks, both of which have recently revised their ranges. Volvo was quoted by the newspaper as stating, "Given the importance of this legislation to the industry, it needs to be done in the correct way... matched with appropriate timing for planning and preparation." It noted, "Redesigning the cab is quite complex and costly, and you have to bear in mind that product cycles in our business are 15, maybe 20 years long." The company said, "We support an application of the new requirements by 2025. This is the message we have communicated to all our stakeholders."

Unsurprisingly, the new rules which are expected to be approved at a council vote to take place on 5 June has led to objections from environmental groups. William Todts, an official at the Transport & Environment thinktank told the newspaper, "New design rules would enable, not force, lorry-makers to produce lorries that are safer, cleaner and cheaper to run. A moratorium on innovative lorry designs is absurd... EU governments must resist calls to stall innovation in order to shield a few companies from increased competition."

Outlook and implications

The EU has been working towards new legislation which is intended to significantly change the design of trucks being used in the region (see Europe: 19 March 2014: European lawmakers approve new rules on trucks to transform industry in quest for safety, fuel efficiency). The new regulations will see a change in cab design from the flat-fronted, upright boxes that are currently used to gain the maximum load-carrying length, to a more aerodynamic design that resembles a high-speed train, which will improve aerodynamics and therefore fuel efficiency and carbon emissions. It is also expected to benefit safety by eliminating some of the blind spots that arise from the current decision. According to Siim Kallas, the European Commissioner for Transport, the changes would reduce haulage company fuel bills by around 10% as well as save the lives of more than 300 cyclists and pedestrians every year.

However, as anticipated, a major bone of contention has been the timeframe for its introduction versus the lengthy lifecycle of designs in the heavy commercial vehicle (HCV) sector. Although delaying the legislation would stall some of the innovations that are likely to be brought forward by a couple of years, it would give all competitors in the region a level playing field to start from. As Christoph Domke, a Principal Analyst at IHS Automotive's Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicle division notes, an unsuccessful postponement "would probably lead to a severe/existential crisis for Volvo and its brand Renault, given the fact that both recently renewed their truck ranges at high costs and are facing a difficult position in the market at present". The company is already undertaking a restructuring of its truck business in the near term to meet current demand levels and improve efficiency and cost effectiveness (see Europe: 17 October 2014: Volvo Group announces plans for restructuring European truck manufacturing). Its Renault Trucks unit has lost market share in the past, not helped by a dependency on demand in some of the worst effected economies in Southern Europe.

Even so, whatever decision is taken on when the new legislation takes effect, Domke suggests that in order to achieve these new regulations, we could see greater co-operation between European and North American truck-makers in future in the area of cab design. This would be as a result of truck-makers in North America already typically using a bonneted design for their vehicles which is likely to become commonplace with the new EU regulations. In this area, Volvo may have an advantage as it already sells such trucks in the US, as well as owning the US-based Mack brand. There would also be an advantage for the likes of Daimler (which owns the Freightliner and Western Star brands) and DAF (owned by PACCAR).

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