Gigaliner Transport Test on German Autobahn

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Would you support a new truck which could reduce fuel use from 19 to 16 L per 1000km-ton and win 25% of road space back from the transport companies for the common man? What if it means tax dollars to reinforce two-thirds of the country's bridges and the possibility of 60 tons instead of 44 tons bearing down on the unlucky victim of a highway accident? This is the debate which has been simmering for years in Germany. Now the so-called "Gigaliner" will get a chance to show its stuff: The German state of Niedersachsen has granted a special permission for several Gigaliners manufactured by the firm Krone to ply their trade until July 2007. So what is a Gigaliner? A Gigaliner is a modular truck consisting of a tractor cab with a trailer and a second trailer extension, reaching lengths of around 25 meters (compared to the typical length of 16.5 to 18.7 meters) and capable of carrying 50% more volume and up to 60 tons (44 tons is the maximum approved weight under current German law). Due to the increase from five to eight axles, however, the potential for load-related street damage is decreased. Nonetheless, routes must be specially reviewed and approved to ensure that bridges in the path of the transport can bear the total weight of the load.

The giants have been rolling on the highways of Sweden and Norway for decades, reportedly without problems. But the wide-open roads of the great north are hardly a comparison with the fleets packing German autobahns like schools of sardines. Advocates for the larger trucks note that two Gigaliners can carry the load of three normal trucks, using only 130 meters of road instead of the 172 meters when calculated to include the safety distance—which should reduce the density of goods traffic on the roads, easing the pending traffic crisis. They further point out that the limitations in transport more frequently depend on volume than weight: calculations from a limited test indicate that an average of 57% of the max load was used to reach an average of 92% usage by pallet-place.

A two-year test of 300 of the super-trucks with loads up to 60 tons started in August 2004 in the Netherlands. This testing has already triggered two limited special exemptions in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen—one covers a 3 km stretch of German "peninsula" which intersects transport routes through the Netherlands, and a second (which allows the longer trucks but limits the loads to 40 tons) for a German company taking part in the Dutch test. The special exemption in Niedersachsen will be the first test of routine transport, delivering for example parts to auto-city Wolfsburg for Volkswagen. This will allow important data to be gathered on the risks and benefits of the proposition. It is widely assumed that a general approval by the German government for the new means of transport will quickly translate to approvals throughout mainland Europe.

Via Handelsblatt (German only)