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Gigaliner HDV trials in Germany

by Rafael Seidl

A gigaliner from Boll-Logistik-Gruppe under testing. Click to enlarge.

Several German Länder (states) are presently conducting trials of so-called gigaliner heavy duty vehicles (HDV). These consist of a tractor-trailer towing a second large trailer, for a combined length of up to 25.25m (82.8ft). Costing little more to purchase and operate than conventional tractor-trailer rigs, each gigaliner can transport 50% more cargo. Transportation ministers are hoping this could help unclog Germany’s autobahn network.

On long-haul routes, gigaliners could reduce diesel consumption per ton of cargo by almost 1/3. In addition to reduced CO2 emissions and dependence on foreign oil, reduced overheads should permit profitable operations without jeopardizing traffic safety.

In theory, the combined gross vehicle weight rating of a gigaliner could reach 60 tons but will likely remain limited to 44 tons initially—the maximum permissible weight of certain HDV configurations today, making early reinforcement of bridges and overpasses unnecessary.

Some 162 gigaliners have already been in operation in the Netherlands for several years. The traffic ministry there concluded in 2005 that giga-liners are, if anything, contributing to overall traffic safety because they help reduce the number of vehicles on the roads.

Close slipstreaming concepts that permit multiple independent HDVs to reduce overall fuel consumption by traveling in close pproximityto reduce wind resistance remain stuck on the drawing board. The required vehicle-to-vehicle communications and master-slave control of vehicle steering, speed and brakes are not yet considered robust enough for safe operation of such HDV convoys.

Nevertheless, there are lingering concerns that the additional 6.5m (21ft) in length will generate dangerous situations on Germany’s secondary roads as passenger cars try to overtake them. Also, autobahn rest stops and many freight transfer points are currently unable to accommodate vehicles combinations of such great length.

(Even longer “road trains” routinely transport goods in Australia and parts of North America, but the terrain and traffic conditions there are not comparable to those in central Europe.

The final bone of contention is that the reduced operating costs of gigaliners could undermine current efforts to shift freight off the road and onto trains. A combined road-and-rail freight service offered by the Bundesbahn to entice customers without a rail spur to their premises handles just 5% of total road freight volume today, but it is growing by 10% annually.

Competition for road freight business has become cutthroat in Europe, largely as a result of recent eastward EU expansion. Hauliers are increasingly caught skimping on traffic safety. In one typical police operation, more than 50% of trucks stopped at random yielded an infraction related to the qualifications or condition of the driver, excess load, cargo restraints or the condition of the vehicle. Serious cases involving broken or disabled brakes, bent and broken frames or suspensions, completely bald tires etc. are becoming more frequent, even though operators are denied permission to proceed and fined heavily.




Is the world going compleatly mad ! surely this sort of frieght should me moved on the railways , reduced costs to who , not to the eviroment , or the people who live next to the motorways , what happens when they leave the motorways ! Try getting one of these monsters through switzerland , they would not stand for it !


sorry to hear germany is so far behind the curve on this. doubles and triple smaller trailers are used here in the mid-west all the time with no problems what so ever.

fyi CO2

Can't find any statistics to substantiate a "no problems whatsoever" claim, do you have some data on this?
There's no "behind the curve" utilizing rail vs. trucking as far as energy efficiency is concerned.


Wikipedia: "In 1999 the town of Merredin, Western Australia made it into the Guinness Book of Records, when Marleys Transport made a successful attempt on the record for the world's longest road train. The record was created when 45 trailers, driven by Greg Marley, weighing 603 metric tons and measuring 610 metres were pulled by a Kenworth truck for 8 km.
In 2003, the record was surpassed near Mungindi, New South Wales, by a road train consisting of 87 trailers and a single prime mover (measuring 1235 metres in length).
The next record was 1,442 metres, set by a driver in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia in a Kenworth owned by Doug Gould.
In 2006, a truck with 104 semi-trailers (at a length of 1,474.3 metres) claimed a new record at Clifton, Queensland."

Beat that mid-west!!


Rails dont go everywhere specialy in he us. And we have double trailers and have had them for a very long time. Aistrailia has had triple trailers of 150 feet for a very long time too.

The extra trailer saves alot of fuel and is not much more difficult to manuver then a single .

The us has at times planned to go to triple and ever qud legth road trains but no one nows when that will happen as it would require changes to weighing stations.

Also rail isnt all that fuel eff overall it just uses far cheaper and lowee grade fuel.

tom deplume

Imagine waiting on the on ramp for a mile long road-train to pass. Even the more typical 5 trailer train would cause nightmares on American freeways.


Imagine the road-train waiting on the on ramp for space to enter the highway.

Rails dont go everywhere specialy in he us.

So why not work harder at remedying the problem? Expand the rail coverage network and the quality of the lines. I'm not suggesting that more work shouldn't be done on big rig trucks, but lets use the rail system where its more efficient in terms of fuel, and lets work on expanding the number of opportunities that exist for rail to be more efficient.


Rail lines are used more for bulk items like metal from the fundry to the mill or coal from the mine to the power plant. Its not so good at alot of other needs wich trucks have handled for decades.

And as the country deindustrializes the roll of the truck vs the rail changes as well.

Also modern truck shipping is vastly faster. In many cases time realy is mney and you cant beat trucks..


I believe Europe has a problem with mutually incompatible rail systems, making trucks a necessity. Freight rail in the United States is currently undergoing something of a Renaissance. Lots of investment in new, more efficient locomotives.


In Finland and Sweden 25.25 m trucks with a maximum weight of 60 tons are the standard for long haul freight traffic. Though they are not the same configuration as described above with a tractor and 2 trailers, but rather a rigid truck towing a wagon or a dolly + semi-trailer. See e.g.

There has been some criticism of this configuration as being unstable as it has two joints close to each other, and it's likely that it was a contributing factor in the Konginkangas bus disaster ( ). But as usual in politics, after the initial outcry nothing happened.



depending on the source freight rail is about an order of magnitude more energy efficient than truck in terms of energy use per ton-mile. See e.g.

For passenger travel, there doesn't seem to be such a big difference between bus and rail, see page 12 in

Rafael Seidl

Cervus -

you are quite right, progress toward a single European rail network has been slow. Austria has to deal with near-permanent HDV traffic jams on e.g. the Brenner freeway through the once-idyllic Inn valley in the western province of Tyrol. The resulting complaints from residents have prompted a concerted effort to shift freight onto underutilized rail lines, whose electricity is provided by hydro in this country. Entire trucks are loaded and moved across the Alps while the drivers sleep. The additional cost must be weighed against the reduced transit time to the destination.

Austria is also the first country in Europe to purchase 50 units of a new generation of powerful multi-purpose locomotives that can cope with multiple power formats and therefore minimize delays by crossing the border along with the rolling stock. Nevertheless, there is no prospect of any cross-border merger between national rail operators at this point.


Statistics lie but money always tells the teueth.

fuel costs are what show mass transit and rail to be out and out lieing bastards. As thier fuel gets more expensive EVEN tho its still vastly cheaper then a truckeers fuel they are being squuzed out.

If the fuel costs were the same trucks would win everywhere ever time.. that means to be blunt trucks are better. And thats a fact the changing cost of oil and more importatly heavu distlates such as heavy fuels is bashing home with a vebgence.


Statistics lie

How, specifically, in this case?

money always tells the teueth

The "teueth"? Are you so worked up about somebody advocating rail that you can't even spell anymore? :)

As thier fuel gets more expensive EVEN tho its still vastly cheaper then a truckeers fuel they are being squuzed out.

If the fuel costs were the same trucks would win everywhere ever time.. that means to be blunt trucks are better.

It'd mean that trucks would get a significant subsidy since road building and maintenance is (to a large extent in many countries at least) financed with fuel taxes, whereas rail networks are financed directly from operating profits.

As an aside, an interesting question is to which extent transport costs (truck as well as rail and other forms of transport) reflect their cost to society.


Wintermane, you can't blame this on cataracts.  Stop hitting the sauce for real this time.


Sme words when I try to type em my fingers refuse to spell them right and as my eyes arnt what they used to be I cant always ctch it.

As for stats lieing. If I told you a bussing system got xmiles per gallon traveled per passenger..but didnt tell you that was only if every bus was full.. would it be a lie?

If I told you shipping by rail is 10x as fuel eff.. but didnt day comnpared to 1920s trucks vs fully loaded trains going to a single desintation over flat land.... would I be lieing?

Money talks. In this casemost times in klst places in ameica it will take alot more FUEL to get a ton of stuff to where you want it by rail then it will by truck. And that is why trucks get bussiness in the first place.

And its getting worse for rail as the cheap fuel they count on is going away as more and more of a barrel fo oil is squeezed into gas instead of cheaper cruder fuels.


As for stats lieing. If I told you a bussing system got xmiles per gallon traveled per passenger..but didnt tell you that was only if every bus was full.. would it be a lie?

If I told you shipping by rail is 10x as fuel eff.. but didnt day comnpared to 1920s trucks vs fully loaded trains going to a single desintation over flat land.... would I be lieing?

Yes, of course. But both of us can come up with any number of ways to skewer statistics either way. What I was asking was how specifically the statistics I linked to are skewered?

More interestingly, what motivates the researchers to skewer results in favor of rail?

hampden wireless

you wrote:
Money talks. In this casemost times in klst places in ameica it will take alot more FUEL to get a ton of stuff to where you want it by rail then it will by truck. And that is why trucks get bussiness in the first place.

Where rails exist to move freight rails are almost always far more efficient then trucks. As fuel prices went up recently even more freight was sent by rail. The main problem, rails can't and don't go everywhere. Trucks are needed for places rails don't go.

The only thing you can do is build more rails.

Why are rails better? Much larger loads, lower rolling resistance on steel wheels, right of way so less stopping, engine sized much closer to ideal for load size and far more advanced engines.

Rafael Seidl

wintermane -

as I understand it, most rail locomotives in the US feature large-bore diesel engines. Since freight trains tends to stop infrequently and accelerate slowly, these engines are usually operated at high load, i.e. with high efficiency. Some losses occur due to the serial hybrid transmission, but these are compensated for by the optimum operating point for the engine, the option of using only one of two diesels in part load cruising and, the option of grid connectivity where overhead lines are available (this last option is rarely exercised).

Add to this that trains suffer lower rolling and wind resistance than trucks and it becomes hard to agree with your argument that that rail freight consumes more fossil fuel than trucked freight, per unit of cargo. There are, however, significant economic costs associated with the delays inherent in assembling trains and transferring cargo to trucks for local delivery to destinations without rail spurs. It is these delays that make trucking more attractive for many goods.

Btw, as indicated previously, European railways operate on electric grids, some of which are supported by renewable sources, e.g. hydro. There are many more ways to generate electricity both cheaply and cleanly for a grid than there are ways to do so on board a vehicle.


Its a simple matter of what routes are profitable at what fuel cost.

Yje rail companies are going to monumental lengths to stabalize and keep low the price of thier fuel because while a train may be a fuel miser in some cases the rail system as a whole gobbles lakes of fuel.

Just a few years back hybdreds if smakll towns and cities lost rail service due to rising fuel costs. In one of the trde mags I used to read comlanies were talking about switching to trucking because the rail line was shutting down.

And all that while the fuel they use was still VERY cheap.

Now rail lines all over are in dire straights because oil companies are making more gas and alot less low grade fuels.

So you see cargo ship ideas with sales and trains that use coal to liquids fuel and so on.

But you wont ever see a train run on fuel that costs the same as a truck. That simply wont ever work.


The problem is overtaking the bastards. When I was driving back from Geraldton, Western Australia on the 2 lane road that connects Perth to Geraldton I was coming up behind them then misjudging the required distance to overtake.

The problem is that from behind they look like a normal truck, it is only when you pull out into oncoming traffic to overtake that the length of them becomes apparent and you wish you never had committed to the overtaking.

Scares you silly!!!!!!

Rafael Seidl

Ender -

in Europe and in the US, unusually long vehicle combinations have to be fitted with a warning sign beind the last trailer. This helps motorists guage if they will be able to overtake the vehicle.

Also, I would expect road train drivers to let passenger cars whenever possible, as a safety precaution and as a courtesy. Of course, regular turnouts won't be long enough. Perhaps some form of codified communication using the headlights and/or indicators might be useful:

1. driver wanting to overtake a road train activates turn signal and positions his vehicle such that the driver of the road train can see it in his side view mirror.

2. If that driver, who sits higher up and can therefore see further, responds by activating his own turn signal twice away from the centerline, that indicates it is NOT safe to overtake. The driver of the rig may also flash his headlights twice in case a vehicle is approaching from the other side, to warn them that someone is looking to overtake the big rig. That way, all three drivers can co-operate to avoid an accident.

3. If the big rig driver activates the other turn signal twice, that means he it IS - in his estimation - safe to pass. However, there is no obligation to respond.

Sounds complicated, but big rig drivers don't want to be anywhere near accidents, not only because of the possibility of personal injury and damage to the rig but also because of the time lost and hassle involved with having to give a statement to the police and insurance companies.


Rafael - Yeah ours do have long vehicle signs however you do not get an idea of how long the things are until you pull out. Then they look 5 miles long :-)

It probably reflects more on my poor driving skills than problems with the road trains. Mind you holding a small 4 cyl car at 160km/hr (100mph) trying to overtake after misjudging the distance is not an experience that I want to repeat. I was a LOT more careful with my second one.

I have done most of my driving in coastal New South Wales that does not have road trains. In Western Australia, where I moved to about 10 years ago, they are much more common.


Thats why road trains workbest in 4 lane road conditions. In the us 2 lane roads are very much frowned apon for safety reasons. As soon as possible most are upgraded to 4 lanes.

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