by Martin Phippard


Despite the fact that legislation in France restricts all combinations to a maximum of 40-tonnes gross weight and lengths to 16.5-metres (54-feet) for tractor-trailers and 18.35-metres (60-feet) for truck-trailers there have been a few isolated attempts to run B-Trains during the past 20-years.

Most of these were unusual in that they were "convertible" combinations used to haul empty 20-foot containers before the advent of the combi-trailer. The B-Trains were assembled by using a special tandem-axle semi-trailer that converted to the lead section by virtue of an extendable rear bogie housing a fifth wheel. A second trailer could then be coupled to the fifth wheel of the lead trailer in the normal manner. Such systems, pioneered by Ackerman-Fruehauf of Germany in the mid 1980s did allow operators some flexibility, but in practical terms the constraints imposed by low weights and modest overall lengths did not offer much scope.

However, there have been unconfirmed reports in recent months that B-Trains hauling two 40-foot containers are working in the port area of Calais. Such combinations would be far in excess of the legal length limit, but may be operating under special dispensation. However, it should also be pointed out that several of the earlier B-Trains hauling containers in France certainly appeared to be far longer than the maximum overall lengths permitted for tractor-trailer combinations suggesting either that they enjoyed special dispensation or that they simply flouted a system that did not recognise the B-Train concept.

Renault B-Train MAN B-Train
Scania B-Train Iveco A-Train

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