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How longer and heavier vehicles will contribute to a better environment and more efficient transport system

Longer and heavier vehicles on parts of the road network – how goods transport is made more efficient is an important part of the solution 'CO2 emissions from heavy road traffic must be reduced,' says Thomas Asp, head of the High Capacity Transport area within CLOSER. We have already avoided thousands of tons of carbon dioxide emissions with our projects.

The HCT programme addresses how our freight transport can be more energy-efficient and how we can better utilise the infrastructure.

The work has been in progress for ten years.

Thomas Asp, who is responsible for the topic and works at the Swedish Transport Administration, answers some questions about HCT.

What is HCT? 
HCT (High Capacity Transport) is transport vehicle combinations beyond the applicable rules and regulations, i.e. longer than 25.5 metres and heavier than 64 tons, which are the standard limits in Sweden today. This includes, for instance vehicles with double trailers. 

Why does HCT exist? 
The overall objective is to reduce the use of energy and CO2 emissions from  heavy road traffic. It also involves energy efficiency and better utilisation of the infrastructure.

When was HCT launched?
The initiative arose in 2007 from the forestry sector and Skogsforsk (the central research body for the Swedish forestry sector) and had the objective of increasing capacity in individual timber shipments, the so-called ETT project [Swedish abbreviation for 'one more stack']. After a while, we understood that it was about more than 'larger' vehicles. In 2011 we developed the idea of a programme with different work packages. At the same time, the CLOSER endeavour took form and the HCT programme found its home here. 

What is the overall goal? 
The goal is to create conditions for introduction of HCT within a defined and suitable part of the Swedish road network, i.e. for double trailers on the divided road network.

How do you work to achieve the goal?
By describing and developing licensing and problem scenarios, developmental requirements and possible solutions and by testing and demonstrating.

Which participants set the tone? 
The parties responsible for our ten different work packages set the tone and they have varied over the years depending on which issues have been most current. There has also been a dedicated control group that has met four times per years since the beginning.

What are HCT's ten different work packages?

This is managed by the Swedish Transport Administration. They determine which road network is suitable for a specific vehicle.

A collection of rules and regulations
This is managed by the Swedish Transport Agency. They develop rules and regulations for the various vehicle configurations. 

Traffic safety
This is managed by Safer, a hub for research and traffic safety which is also situated at Lindholmen. They conduct traffic safety studies so that the vehicles are safe. 
Performance based standards (PBS)
This is managed by VTI. It involves developing functional requirements on vehicle dimensions; for instance how you should be able to drive at a certain speed on curves without tipping over.  

Access and supervision
This is managed by Lund University. They work on how connection – on select routes – can be used to monitor longer and heavier vehicles in order to create safer and more efficient shipments. 

System effects and logistics solutions
This is managed by Schenker Consulting. This is partly involves system effects introduction of HCT entails and partly the development of suitable multi-modal solutions so that various modes of transport (e.g. road and rail transport) handle the appropriate task in the transport system. This can involve, for instance, the effects of driving two lorry trailers instead of just-in-time deliveries.

Vehicle types
This is managed by Volvo and Scania. This relates to questions about which vehicles are optimal for various types of shipments. Do the vehicles meet the new requirements and should the vehicles be designed?  A list of over 100 different vehicle combinations has been compiled. For example: if you increase a vehicle's load capacity by ten tons (from 64 to 74 tons), you must increase the number of axles in order to avoid excessively high axle weights. Which vehicles can be coupled together?

This is managed by Skogfors. This involves responsibility for the home page, which provides an overview of all testing with longer and heavier vehicles. Out of a total of around 100 test proposals, roughly half have begun rolling on the roads. You can visit to see how you many tones of CO2 have been saved thanks to all of the research projects. As of mid-June 2019, this has involved about 32,000 tons of CO2.

International collaboration
This is managed by CLOSER They gather and spread knowledge so that no one conducts research that has already taken place in other countries.

On-going evaluation
This is managed by KTH. They have studied and analysed how the process within the programme has worked for the past four years.

More than one hundred associated projects have been implemented during this time with concrete testing of vehicles and analysis of data. Describe some predecessor projects that are still in progress.
DUO 2 was the first project in which double trailers could be driven between Gothenburg and Malmö.
ETT, one more stack, deals with freight transport between Piteå and Överkalix and means that higher stacks of timber are loaded and the vehicle length is extended by one stack. Both projects are still in progress and the vehicles have advanced as new knowledge emerged.

HCT has been a forerunner internationally.
Sweden was a forerunner and first in Europe when we started a research programme and implemented actual testing with long and heavy test vehicles that travelled on the road network. Work on many of the issues has taken place in other parts of the world and Sweden has had continuous contact with, among others, Australia, which has made the most progress.

But Finland has taken a great leap and already permits longer and heavier vehicles. How does this affect Sweden? 
The pressure for us to work together has increased. For Finland, it involves economic advantages and reduced CO2 emissions. 

What are the logistical challenges facing an HCT launch in Sweden?
There is work remaining here in many aspects. For example, larger areas are needed at the terminals where larger vehicles are loaded with larger quantities of goods. But we see great potential in improving the efficiency of transport with HCT, i.e. how multi-modal solutions can make it even more efficient and environmentally-friendly. An example is Jula, which, uses train transport to Falköping and then double trailers the last segment to Skara instead of running lorries the entire Göteborg-Skara route. 

Is there anything else that influences the introduction of HCT? 
As always, political decisions have an impact – and how the question is perceived in the rest of Europe. A European roadmap for long-distance freight transport has been developed, which incorporates, among other things, ideas relating to how the long-distance freight transport should also work in relation to the railway. You can read about the European roadmap here.

In May 2019 a report on larger transport was released by OECD and ITF. What does the report contain?
The report, High Capacity Transport Towards Efficient, Safe and Sustainable Road Freight is a summary of best practices within the field and includes recommendations for how they can be implemented. To put it succinctly, it describes how to manage vehicles in time and space and achieve a more efficient infrastructure utilisation in practice. The report is primarily intended for the countries that have not made much progress within this field and is a possibility for them to use ready-made solutions without having to do so much research on their own. Countries which have already made a great deal of progress are Australia, South Africa, Canada and Sweden.
You can read the report here.

How does HCT's work with digitalisation, automation and multi-modality work?

  • Digitalisation and connected vehicles: This has been an important part since the beginning. Geofencing, for example, has been in used since 2009 to monitor test vehicles. We see great opportunity in controlling vehicles in time and space and this also involves controlling 'the size' of the vehicle so that the best possible matching between vehicle and infrastructure is ensured.
  • Automation: Here we mainly see the same solutions can be applied for HCT, but an important element is manoeuvring of vehicles when double trailers arrive at the terminals. So-called e-dollies, autonomous small vehicles that can move trailers are a good solution.
  • Multi-modality (that the right mode of transport handles the right task in the transport system): This primarily involves finding good solutions together with the railway, but it can also involve maritime travel. An important element is that freight is not moved from railway to road when larger vehicles are permitted. A great deal of research has been done in this context. The work within this area is extremely important because it also depends on other parts within CLOSER's topical areas.

What has the HCT programme achieved thus far? 
We are pleased that the research results have been used with the introduction of the initial steps of HCT in Sweden, i.e. from the PBS work package (performance-based standards), whose work serves as a basis for the changing requirements on vehicles when making the transition from a 64 to 74 ton load capacity. Products of the work from the programme have also been an important part of the Swedish Transport Administrations answers to several governmental undertakings.

HCTs have just recently receives a new roadmap. What does that mean?  
The purpose of the roadmap is to provide various players a basis for a continued active and coordinated introduction of HCT as an important part in the development towards a more efficient and sustainable transport system.

It involves reducing energy consumption, improving the infrastructure to increase the capacity for heavier vehicles and revision of laws and regulations so that vehicles can be connected and their data can be used to ensure that they travel on the correct roads, are not overloaded and do not speed.

The entire roadmap is available here
There is also a report in which the background for the chosen goals is explained in greater detail.

What is it most important to achieve next? 
It is most important to introduce longer vehicles on suitable parts of the road network. A heavier and/or longer vehicle places higher demands on the road network. To make progress with all of the legal issues relating to use of connected vehicles is also an important matter and a major challenge. For example: to be able to use data to gain access to a certain road network or brake vehicles (geofencing) in city streets, etc. Generally speaking, the technology is not a problem – it is more of a legal matter.

Leading up to HCT's annual conference this autumn. What will be the focus there?
It is now a Scandinavian conference. It seems right, because that way it is easier to produce similar regulations in our countries, which facilitates international transport. We also take a look at the rest of Europe, including the aforementioned roadmap on the European level. 

Everyone is more than welcome to register here

Viktor Åkesson works at Schenker Consulting AB and is involved in HCT. He is glad that a new roadmap is now in place.
'The new roadmap involves wide participation from key players, which is prerequisite for achievement of the established goals,' he says. Now it is important to communicate the work with the roadmap. The concept of multi-modal solutions has been incorporated in the logistics segment and is a very important part for the future within the development work in order to ensure favourable development.