IMPACT OF HIGHER MAXIMUM WEIGHTS FOR LORRIES ON MODAL SPLIT – EX-POST ANALYSIS FOR SWEDEN
Inge Vierth, Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI), Samuel Lindgren, Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI), Hanna Lindgren, Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI)
The project studies how higher maximum weights for lorries have influenced the domestic road freight transport volume and modal split in Sweden during the last three decades.
Freight transport’s contribution to greenhouse gases, pollution and other negative external effects is high and expected to increase. Some policy measures appear to be in conflict. On the one hand, efforts are being made to improve the efficiency of road transport, i.e. by using longer and/or heavier lorries. On the other, firms are being encouraged to shift freight from road to rail and waterborne transport because these modes have a lower carbon intensity and because sea transports require less infrastructure investments etc. The conflict arises because efficiency improvements in road transport make it more competitive, frustrating the efforts of the other modes to capture a larger share of the freight market.
Currently, Sweden allows longer and heavier lorries than most other European countries: maximum 25,25 meters compared to 18,75 metres on most other European countries and maximum 64 gross tonnes compared to 40 tonnes on most other European countries. At the same time, Sweden has also one of the highest rail freight shares in Europe.
During the last decades, Sweden extended the maximum weight for lorries successively: in 1990 from to 51,4 to 56 gross tonnes, in 1993 from 56 to 60 gross tonnes and in 2015 from 60 to 64 gross tonnes. This means Sweden is one of the few countries with revealed preferences regarding choice of mode and total freight transport volume.
The project studies which factors have influenced the domestic freight transport volume in transported tonnes and tonne-kilometres and modal split in Sweden during the last three decades. Main research question is which impact the permission of higher maximum weights for lorries in 1990, 1993 and 2015 had on the road transport demand and the competition between road on the one side and rail and waterborne transports on the other side.
National transport statistics are analysed to investigate the modal split on the aggregate level and for specific commodity groups. Time series for the period 1985-2015 regarding domestic transported tonnes and tonne-kilometres by mode and commodity are compiled. The impact of the permission of higher maximum weights for lorries and other factors on the demand of total tonne-kilometres and modal split is analysed. The results are compared to the development in other countries. Of special interest are a) Finland with a similar size and commodity mix and similar maximum lengths (25,25 metres) and maximum weights (76 gross tonnes) for lorries and b) EU-countries. Own-price and cross-price elasticities are calculated and compared to elasticities in the literature.
This topic is a key challenge in transport policy and discussed in many countries and at the international level. The Swedish experience provides a suitable setting for studying the impact of heavier vehicles since the gradual increase in the maximum permissible weight over time enables us to investigate short and long run effects and account for other events affecting modal split. In this way the study helps to improve decision making in transport policy.
Association for European Transport