The liberalization of the transit of articulated vehicles up to 18 meters long, established by the infrastructure bill, for Smet «is not a point of arrival but a starting point. We expect by the end of this year to understand the real possibilities of a project with which to test the use of 25.5-meter vehicles (also called Ems or Ecocombi)».
So says Domenico De Rosa, managing director of the Salerno-based company specializing in intermodal logistics that was among the main experimenters of the so-called Project Eighteen, promoted by Anfia and sponsored by the then MIT to test the use of ‘long semi-trailers’, which at the same transported weight allow to increase the capacity of the platform from 33 to 37 pallet places, thus proving to be particularly suitable for bulky goods.
A decidedly long experimentation, recalls De Rosa, which began in 2009 and lasted 12 years, leading to the use on Italian roads of 30 semi-trailers (curtainsiders, refrigerators, car transporters) in the first phase and a further 300 in the second, for a total of 330 experimental vehicles that were able to travel thanks to a special dispensation issued by the Ministry.
Of the total number of vehicles, continues De Rosa, “several dozen” (as well as the prevailing share if one looks only at the curtainsiders) were those purchased “from various Italian manufacturers” by Smet, with an investment of “several million euros”.
The semi-trailers have been used in one of the “historical” business segments of the company, namely the automotive one, in agreement – or rather on the basis of a sharing of intentions – with the industrial partners to which the company offers its logistics services and solutions, including Iveco and FCA, «which are always looking for solutions that bring better efficiency and greater loadability».
Objectives that have obviously been achieved by the long test of the “Diciotto project”, along with that of better environmental sustainability. «In the last 5 years of the experimentation, we can estimate a saving of about 5 million km travelled». In return, the use of ‘long semitrailers’ has not revealed any particular criticalities – “moreover, the Italian road network itself has improved over the last 12 years” – and the use of this type of vehicle has not even required infrastructural adjustments (to adapt yards or other), while it has made ad hoc training for drivers necessary.
The liberalization of 18-meter articulated trucks, in conclusion, can only bring benefits to the companies that will use them – naturally considering that they are «vehicles suitable for certain national traffic» and not for all – and can also represent, according to Smet’s managing director, a weapon to counteract the problems linked to the increasing shortage of drivers.
These are all considerations, however, that after 12 years of successful tests De Rosa considers established and no longer under discussion. So much so that he wants to relaunch the idea of experimentation for the use of 25.5-meter semi-trailers (the so-called Ems or Ecocombi), already regularly used on the road networks of several Scandinavian countries as well as in the Netherlands and Belgium. «We expect by the end of this year to understand the real possibilities of a project with which to test the use of 25.5-meter vehicles», also in relation to the response that the Ministry will give, explains De Rosa. «It is, however, a use that will have to have some limitations. We would see them well in particular to connect the national interports».