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France and Sweden close to victory over EU lorry designs


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Financial Times / May 14, 2014

France and Sweden are close to winning a battle to delay by 10 years EU legislation that could make lorry designs safer and more efficient, as they look to protect national manufacturers Renault and Volvo.

The legislation, which would also open up the European truck market to US competition, will only come into force in 2025 because of the lobbying by France and Sweden.

Renault Trucks, with its owner, Sweden’s Volvo Trucks, have recently launched new model ranges, which would mean that any imminent changes to design rules would be costly to implement and could allow competitors a head start.

“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,” said Volvo, which is separate from the car brand of the same name. “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.”

“We support an application of the new requirements by 2025. This is the message we have communicated to all our stakeholders,” Volvo added.

Representatives of the Swedish and French delegation to the EU dealing with this issue declined to comment.

European lorries, which must follow EU-mandated design rules, are distinguishable from US vehicles by their boxlike, square cockpits.

The EU parliament has already agreed on the new legislation that would enable truckmakers to design more curved, streamlined cabs. Campaigners say that this would make them more fuel efficient and safer to other road users, such as cyclists.

Other countries such as Germany, Denmark and Ireland are in favor of implementing the new laws as soon as possible. Germany’s Volkswagen owns MAN and Scania, both big competitors to Volvo and Renault.

The changes would reduce haulage company fuel bills by 10 percent and save the lives of more than 300 cyclists and pedestrians every year, according to Siim Kallas, the European Commissioner for Transport.

The EU council will vote on the legislation, containing the 10-year delay, on June 5. It is expected to be passed.

“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,” said William Todts, an official at Brussels-based environmental think-tank Transport & Environment. “EU governments must resist calls to stall innovation in order to shield a few companies from increased competition.”

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