HCT vehicles boost the efficiency of road transports

The extra-long HCT trucks that operate by a special permit granted by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi will be driving between truck terminals in Turku and Vantaa at least until the year 2020. The goal of the trial is to study the suitability of long articulated trucks to Finnish general cargo transports.

Traffic and logistics

The goals of moving larger loads at a time are improved efficiency as well as lower emissions. According to Teemu Koivula, Regional Manager of Auramaa Oy, the company started operating on extra-long articulated trucks in April 2016.

“We have three units carrying general cargo on the route. Six of our drivers are qualified to drive them.”

Mr Koivula says that so far the experience gathered from the traffic between Turku and Vantaa is merely encouraging.

“Most of the route is four-lane motorway, so there are no problems. On certain routes extra-long vehicles could definitely be commonly used. The road network, of course, sets the limits for where such vehicles can drive.”

Encouraging research data

The special permit granted by Trafi allows for carrying general cargo in a unit that weighs 75 tonnes and is 38.78 metres long. The speed limits are the same as for other articulated trucks. At present, the number of long HCT trucks driving by special permit is limited. There are so far only a few vehicles which are used in transporting containers, timber and general cargo. The first vehicles started operating at the beginning of 2013. The permits are typically granted for 5 years. Permits are still being granted, so the trial will continue to the 2020s.

Petri Murto, Director, Expert Services at Finnish Transport and Logistics (SKAL) reminds that the purpose of the trial is research.

“We are now gathering information on how articulated units with higher capacity could work and what their impacts are on environmental soundness and costs, as well as wear and tear of the road network, and traffic safety.”

According to Teemu Koivula, Auramaa Oy has three units in the trial; two are being loaded in the terminal at each end of the route and one is on the road. “That helps us improve the turnaround in the terminal and minimise the time spent at the destination terminal.”

According to him the experience accumulated so far is encouraging.

“Extra-long trucks have performed faultlessly in the Finnish conditions. Even the winter weather has caused no problems.”

New kind of logistics thinking

According to Mr Murto, the trial has produced plenty of information of the effect of new articulated units on logistics. The new vehicles require new kind of thinking.

”In timber logistics, for example, the traditional method is that one vehicle collects the timber from the felling site and takes it all the way to the plant. In the HCT world smaller units collect the goods to terminals from where larger units then transport them to the production plants. It’s essential that both loading and unloading operations work efficiently.”

“In container logistics we have gathered experience in how frequent a transport need is required to make the use of extra-long trucks sensible considering a situation in which such articulated units will at some point be permitted to all players”, Mr Murto says.

Further discussion is needed

According to Mr Murto, the switch from the trial stage to normal use should be made as soon as possible.

“The industry is waiting for information on whether this will generate something that is permitted to all, and on what terms. Will we have a limited HCT network in the future and will the weight and length regulations of articulated trucks be changed? We are living in a state of some uncertainty regarding, for example, vehicle investments.”

Mr Murto also points out that the special permit procedure should not put companies in a different competitive position.

“We need to be careful with granting the permits. A large number of them should not be given to a single player so that somebody will get competitive advantage by being involved now. The expertise generated by the research should, however, be available to all companies.”

According to Mr Murto, the discussion on the future should start now.

“This has been a good way to gather information and enable high-quality legislation in the future. We consider it a positive thing that there is clearly a will to develop road transports.”

Text Kalle Kirstilä
Photos Robert Seger

An HCT truck

An HCT truck comprises of a tractor unit, a long semi-trailer and trailer unit. The capacity is typically around 35% higher compared to an ordinary full trailer.

Auramaa HCT truck

Total length: with trailer 33.78 m
Total weight: 75 tonnes
Cubic content: 223 m³
Cargo space: 28.89 lane metres