DfT assesses fuel tanker weight proposal

The Department for Transport (DfT) is investigating a proposal that would allow fuel tankers to temporarily operate at higher weights so that more fuel can be transported.

The DfT and the Department for Business and Trade are assessing the feasibility of this proposal following a disruption to fuel supplies in 2021.

The key policy ambition is to make temporary exemptions from the current maximum train weight for 6-axle articulated road fuel tankers of 44 tones and allow a maximum of either 48 or 50 tonnes.

It is expected that this power would only be utilised at times when fuel supply is threatened, and for periods of approximately 4 to 5 weeks.

Vehicles would not be allowed to operate at weights above their maximum design train weight. This would only be applicable to road fuel tanker vehicles equipped with specified safety features, carrying petrol and diesel to fuel distribution centres, retail forecourts and operator depots that make use of fuel bunkers. Domestic fuel deliveries would not be in scope.

The maximum train weight proposed to be permitted is 50 tonnes, but current information about the fleet suggests that most fuel tankers have a maximum design weight of between 44 and 48 tonnes, with only small numbers with a design weight of 50 tonnes. This suggests there would be limited benefits in allowing a maximum train weight of 50 tonnes and, following any additional input from this consultation, consideration would therefore be given to applying a maximum train weight of 48 tonnes.

Additionally, it is anticipated that fuel tankers would only be permitted to operate at increased weights with certain conditions in place to ensure they were operated safely to reduce risks.

These include:

  • not allowing the fuel tanker combinations to exceed maximum permitted GB axle weights or the design train weight of the motor vehicle
  • limiting increases to only those vehicles equipped with enhanced safety features such as advanced emergency braking systems and a vehicle stability function

The DfT has also conducted technical assessments related to infrastructure and vehicle safety and the likely impact of the use of heavier fuel tankers.

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