Committee Reports::Report No. 55 - Weight of Goods Vehicles::27 June, 1979::Report


Proposal Examined

1. The Joint Committee has examined the following proposal made by the Commission under Article 75 of the EEC Treaty which relates to the implementation of the common transport policy:—

Draft Council Directive on the weights and certain other characteristics (not including dimensions) of road vehicles used for carriage of goods [4088/79 (COM (78) 728)].

2. The Committee is informed that it is not possible to say at this stage when consideration of the proposal is likely to be completed by the Community institutions. However the Commission is seeking to bring the proposed Directive into force on 1st January, 1983.

Bodies Consulted

3. The Joint Committee, in considering the proposal, sought the views of the Confederation of Irish Industry, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Irish Overseas Transport Association, Irish Road Haulage Association, Córas Iompair Éireann, Southern Cross Group and Dodder Residents Association. The Committee wishes gratefully to acknowledge the considerable assistance it received.

Outline of Proposal

4. The draft Directive deals with weights and other characteristics (not including dimensions) of goods vehicles and trailers. It proposes that Member States may not prohibit the sale, registration or use of vehicles which comply with the provisions specified. These provisions would permit road hauliers and own account operators engaged in international transport to use vehicles of greater maximum permissible weights than those which they may operate under existing Irish road traffic law provided that the vehicles will comply with EEC requirements regarding axle configuration, braking, noise, anti-pollution measures, etc. The most significant elements of the proposal are those which propose a maximum axle weight of 11 tons and a maximum gross vehicle weight of 44 tons. The corresponding limits under Irish law are 10 tons and 32 tons respectively. Member States would be allowed to exclude vehicles used for the carriage of dangerous goods from the provisions of the Directive and also to exclude vehicles complying with the Directive from certain routes or structures in the interests of safety, protection of the infrastructure or the environment.

Implications for Ireland

5. The adoption of the proposal would entail various changes, mainly in the upward direction, in the limits on axle and gross vehicle weight limits for the various axle configurations, as prescribed in the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations, 1963. An analysis of the latter provisions is contained in Appendix I to this report and Appendix II shows the number of goods vehicles under current licence. It appears that national regulations would continue to apply to vehicles operating within and to/from national territories in cases where the vehicles would not meet the requirements of the proposed Directive.

6. If adopted the Directive would enable Irish road hauliers to increase their vehicle earning capacity and to operate on equal terms, insofar as the laden weights of vehicles are concerned, with road hauliers of EEC mainland States in the international field. Hauliers of EEC mainland States who are restricted by Irish road traffic law in relation to the laden weights of vehicles which they may operate to/from Ireland, would be allowed to operate vehicles to/from this country within the weight levels being proposed.

7. The Joint Committee is advised that the Directive if adopted would not have any significant implications for Irish manufacturers or assemblers.

8. Matters coming within the aegis of the Department of the Environment which need to be taken into consideration when considering the proposal comprise the additional cost in the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges including the safety of bridges to cater for the extra loadings; the effect on road traffic conditions, particularly in relation to damage to older buildings caused by vibration; the higher risk of accidents; the detrimental effects on the environment and the quality of life in towns, cities and countryside; feasibility and cost of effective weight enforcement.

Views of Interested Bodies

9. The two Associations representing road hauliers welcome the proposal as do CIE which has, however, suggested some amendments in matters of detail. CIE wants the directive, if adopted, enforced by the Commission in the case of vehicles entering the Community from third countries and it suggests that harmonisation of British and Irish legislation is desirable.

10. The Confederation of Irish Industry has pointed out that over 80 per cent of Irish exports are now sold in the Community and that a large proportion of trade is now carried on roll-on/roll-off services to the main markets. It regards the availability of higher carrying capacity as very important both to offset increased costs and to cater for an expansion in trade. It urges support for the proposal and also the adoption of similar permitted weights for domestic transport.

11. Members of the Committee had also an opportunity of discussing environmental aspects with Mr. T. Crowley, Chairman of the Dodder Residents Association, whose views were taken to reflect those of the Southern Cross Group to which his Association is affiliated. Mr. Crowley was not concerned with the size of vehicles as such but rather with the serious inconvenience caused even by existing traffic passing through built up residential areas. His view is that, as far as his own area is concerned, a new link road away from the residential areas in South Dublin is essential to accommodate this traffic.

Views of the Joint Committee

12. The Joint Committee is fully convinced of the need to keep transport costs as low as possible particularly in view of the rising cost of energy. It believes that Ireland has a particular and vital interest in furthering this objective in view of the large proportion of our trade with the rest of the Community that is carried on roll-on/roll-off services. The object of the draft Directive, which is to permit the carrying capacity of vehicles to be increased, is in line with this objective. Moreover the proposal is in line with the aims of the common transport policy which the Committee fully supports. The difficulty, however, as far as Ireland is concerned is that the existing road system is not adequate for heavy vehicular traffic and allowing even heavier goods vehicles from other Member States to use our roads would undoubtedly aggravate existing environmental problems. While accepting that the proposal must be supported in the interests of the common transport policy the Committee believes that it does highlight the strength of Ireland’s case for Community assistance for infrastructural development without which it will be physically impossible to accommodate the axle weights proposed in many areas of our country.

13. The Committee is advised that additional infrastructure costs for this country could arise from implementation of the proposed Directive e.g. in relation to (a) wear and tear on road pavements and (b) heavier bridge loadings due to the heavier vehicle weights and the axle loading provided therein. However, it has been suggested to the Committee that these effects may be obscured by illegal overloading currently taking place and could be offset to some extent under EEC proposals being developed in relation to charges on vehicles for infrastructure costs.

14. It is already recognised that the Irish road system is inadequate even for present traffic and the Minister for the Environment has announced a ten-year Road Development Plan designed to effect major improvements in the system. While recognising that any substantial alleviation is unlikely until the plan has been fully implemented, the Committee believes that some consideration should be given to taking some minor ameliorating steps in the meantime.

15. The Committee recommends that the feasibility of excluding heavy vehicular traffic from residential areas either at all times or at night time be specially examined. It seems to the Committee that this power is already available to the Minister for the Environment under section 94 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961 and that its use would be permitted by Article 7 of the proposed Directive if it is adopted.

16. The Committee also recommends that the enforcement of the law against illegal overloading should be reviewed. If the powers contained in sections 15 and 16 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961 are not adequate the Committee believes that proposals for amending legislation should be made.


Chairman of the Joint Committee.

27th June, 1979.