[BRUSSELS] A draft European Union law to make trucks safer and more aerodynamic, cutting fuel bills, emissions and improving safety, has pitted environmentalists against an industry that says it needs more time to develop new vehicles.
The law, which could be finalised at talks between member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission late on Monday, would allow trucks to have longer, more aerodynamic noses similar to the shape of high-speed trains.
Campaigners and the European Commission, which proposed the law, say that trucks' brick-shaped cabs hamper drivers'visibility, leading to cyclist and pedestrian deaths.
Until now, limits on the weight and size of vehicles have stood in the way of more streamlined designs.
Truckmakers such as Sweden's Volvo and France's Renault say the introduction of new cab sizes should be delayed, pointing to the long life cycle of trucks.
A problem for Volvo, for instance, is that it 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.
Industry has the backing of some member states, led by France and Sweden, which have pushed for a delay.
A compromise position established so far means that the new cab designs will no longer be mandatory, as the European Parliament had demanded, merely voluntary.
Member states also want the Commission to develop new safety requirements for lorries before amended designs are allowed and then want a four-year moratorium before full implementation.
Environmental campaigners say the entire process would delay the introduction of the new lorries, originally expected around 2017, to about 2024.
Campaign group Transport & Environment said that delays would be at the expense of the econony because fuel bills would be higher, as well as road safety and the environment.
The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), however, said that an industry with long product cycles needed 10 years to develop the best designs.
Separately, the trucks industry is in conflict with the Commission over an investigation into whether certain truckmakers coordinated their pricing behaviour, breaking EU competition rules.
Volvo, for example, said it could face a significant financial hit because of the cartel investigation, while Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said there is a knock-on effect for the whole economy if transportation prices are raised artificially.