BERLIN: January 05, 2017. Despite opposition from Germany's Environment Ministry, federal minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt has approved the introduction of so-called 'Gigaliners' on the country's major highways from January 01 this year.
The truck/trailer combinations are 25.25 meters in length, some 6.5 meters more than conventional trucks, and have been the subject of a five-year study that Dobrindt thinks shows the trucks can save emissions by 25 percent.
In a statement in December Dobrindt concluded: "It is safe, saves fuel and will lead neither to the shifting of traffic to the road, nor to a heavier burden on our infrastructure. Two long-trucks replace three conventional trucks. And fewer vehicles mean fewer emissions."
His view is not shared by the country's Pro Rail Alliance that says it is considering a lawsuit: "We are looking at taking legal action against transport minister Alexander Dobrindt's unilateral decision to allow regular operations," declared Dirk Flege, managing director of the lobby group that has thrown its support behind Germany's Environment Ministry.
On January 02 federal Environment head Jochen Flasbarth said Dobrindt's order was "not voted on by the government, and is a mistake in terms of environmental and transport policy." Flasbarth added that more time was needed to determine whether the new two-vehicle trucks would encourage a switch from rail to road with a consequential increase in emissions.
The Pro Rail Alliance claims any switch would damage the environment, lead to an increase in truck traffic that would "disproportionally damage the already ailing road infrastructure", and be dangerous to car drivers.
Flege noted: "When the permanent secretary of state in the federal environment ministry openly says that the federal transport minister's decision to allow regular operations has created 'facts on the ground' that are not compatible with EU regulations, that is a very serious accusation indeed.
"The so-called Gigaliners are bad news for climate protection, expensive for taxpayers and dangerous for all road users," he said.
The Pro Rail Alliance includes 23 non-profit organizations representing two million individual members of environmental groups, unions, trade associations and consumer organizations, including two automobile clubs.