Cyclist and pedestrian-friendly truck designs as well as features improving energy efficiency won’t be introduced on European roads until 2019.
Following heavy lobbying from some of the industry players, the European Union decided on Wednesday that the law allowing truck manufacturers to implement new safety features will only come into force in 2019 after safety standards will have been laid down.
Contrary to previous expectations, the safety features, including cabin designs with a better view outside the vehicle, will only be implemented on a voluntary basis and not mandated.
The decision sparked criticism from transport safety groups that hoped to see the potentially life-saving innovations implemented as early as possible.
"These changes could prevent up to 900 deaths a year on European roads, so any delay will cost lives,” said Antonio Avenoso, executive director of the European Transport Safety Council.
Originally EU member states including France and Sweden lobbied for a five-year moratorium on the new designs, calling for the safety requirements to be laid down first.
Truck makers such as Sweden's Volvo and France's Renault argued the introduction of new features could affect competition due to the long lifecycles of trucks. Volvo, for instance, began rolling out new designs in 2012, so it could be at a disadvantage if competitors introduce more up-to-date models in the near future. Had the moratorium been approved, the company would have delayed the introduction of the new safer and more aerodynamic truck cabins until at least 2024.
"The idea that these road safety innovations should be subject to a moratorium to enable all manufacturers to compete equally is without precedent,” Avenoso said.
"Just imagine how many more lives would have been lost if innovations like seatbelts and electronic stability control had been held back from the market for similar reasons."
The compromise reached on Wednesday settled on a three-year delay with the Commission agreeing to first develop new safety requirements for lorries.
Until today, the introduction of new design features was mainly restricted by limits on the weight and size of vehicles.
"This deal signals the end of dangerous and inefficient brick-shaped trucks,” said William Todts, of campaign group Transport & Environment.
“This is good news for hauliers and truck drivers and, above all, for pedestrians and cyclists who'll be much safer. But the absurd and unprecedented decision to impose a ban on new lorry designs until 2022 casts a dark shadow over the agreement," he said, adding that the truck manufacturers lobbying to keep better products out of the market for as long as possible has set a dangerous precedent.
The proposed design changes include larger windows and lowering the position of the driver so that he or she has a better overview of the situation around the truck. Elongated cabin designs are foreseen to replace the old-fashioned brick-shaped cabins, improving aerodynamic properties and reducing fuel consumption.
Campaign group Transport & Environment said that delays would be at the expense of the economy because fuel bills would be higher, as well as road safety and the environment.