An ongoing trial to use longer semi-trailers for transporting goods has cut up to 90,000 lorry journeys to date, reducing congestion, cutting costs for businesses and improving air quality in the process.
It is hoped that the use of longer semi-trailers, which can be up to 2m longer than the standard 13.6m long lorries commonly used in the UK, will help to reduce transport emissions and congestion without causing safety problems.
The Department for Transport launched the ten-year trial in 2012, working with 151 different operators to track the use of 1,800 extended lorries.
The trial is already providing significant benefits, with up to 90,000 lorry journeys and 10.6 million vehicle kilometres avoided so far.
As well as reducing congestion and providing efficiency savings for operators, this is expected to have saved around 3,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
It is expected that the scheme will create economic benefits of £33 million over the next ten years, with the operators involved saving up to 1 in 9 lorry journeys.
Early evidence also shows that the longer lorries are no less safe than standard HGVs and still meet the manoeuvrability requirements and maximum weight limit for six-axle vehicles.
John Hayes, transport minister, said: “Lorries are the engine of our economy and this pilot scheme is helping deliver the day-to-day goods we need more efficiently.
“This is good news for consumers, a boost for motorists as it is helping cut congestion with fewer vehicles on the road and it is also helping the environment.”
The government is expected to ramp up efforts to encourage fuel efficiency and reduce emissions from transport, which is one of the biggest barriers to hitting its climate change targets.
There has been no notable improvement in fuel efficiency or CO2 emissions from HGVs since the mid-1990s.
A recent report from National Grid has also for the first time projected that the UK will miss its 2020 EU target to deliver 15 per cent of energy consumption from renewable sources, partly due to the lack of progress being made on transport.
The government has recently unveiled new funding and plans for an independent testing scheme to validate the latest retrofit technologies for HGVs, and it is now reviewing whether to roll out the trial for longer lorries on a wider basis.
Meanwhile, several urban centres around the UK, including Greater Manchester, are considering whether to introduce Clean Air Zones in certain areas that will restrict vehicles that do not meet specific minimum emissions standards.