Pre-2003 diesel trucks would be banned in Sydney and Melbourne from 2025 under a controversial proposal put forth this week by think tank the Grattan Institute.
The new Grattan Institute report vows to reduce Australians’ exposure to deadly air pollution by keeping the most-polluting trucks away from most people.
The Federal Government, according to the report, should rescind “pointless regulations” including the requirement that trucks in Australia be 2 per cent narrower than the global standard which “limits the range of less-polluting trucks available to buy here.”
It was not clear whether report lead author and Grattan Institute Transport and Cities Program Director Marion Terrill was referring to the Tesla Semi, whose width dimensions under current Australian Design Regulations, makes it prohibited from Australian highways.
Even so, trucks, which contribute just 4 per cent of Australia’s so-called carbon emissions, killed more than 400 Australians every year as a result of exhaust-pipe pollutants noted the report.
The Federal Government, urged the report, should impose binding sales targets for zero-emissions trucks, starting at 2 per cent in 2024 and gradually increasing to cover most new sales by 2040 to help Australia meet its target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
“The work that trucks do is crucial for our economy and way of life, but we must do more to limit the harm they cause to our health and environment,” said Terrill.
In the meantime, government intervention should ensure new diesel trucks emit less carbon, by imposing standards on engines and tyres, and ratcheting up those standards each year according to Terrill.
“Trucks make our lives better in so many ways: they deliver parcels to our door, groceries to the supermarket, tools to the hardware store, building equipment to our construction sites, and medical supplies to our hospitals,” she said.
“But this report shows why and how Australia should do more to limit the damage they leave behind.”
The National Road Transport Association was having none of it labelling the report a radical piece of ideology that flies in the face of the industry’s willingness to change.
NatRoad CEO Warren Clark, in a swift response, said painting trucks as the enemy is counter-productive in the extreme.
“The idea of banning trucks from capital cities is bonkers,” he said.
“There is no market for electric or hydrogen trucks in Australia yet so forcing an industry out of the country’s most populous cities is mad,” said Clark.
“The opening chapter of the report is a dead giveaway – it says that people love home deliveries and stocked supermarket shelves but that trucks that make these possible are ‘hard to love’.”
Recent national research confirmed for NatRoad that 98 per cent of people regard road freight as an essential industry and 99 per cent consider it vital to the economy.
“It shows that about two-thirds (68 per cent) will make a trade-off of waiting longer for goods, accepting less variety, or paying more To help make road freight more environmentally sustainable,” relayed Clark.
As for the rest of the report, Clark dismissed it as patchy, at best.
“NatRoad supports moving to Euro VI emission standards. That should be accompanied by mass concessions on axles,” he said.
“There should be subsidies for those who move to Euro VI to accommodate reduced payload. This needs occur with all technical and economic issues clearly set out and dealt with in a carefully planned way,” continued Clark.
“Nowhere does it call for the abolition of the 3 per cent stamp duty on new truck purchases which should be the first thing to go to drive a move to alternative fuels.”
Indeed the proposed ban of pre-2003 diesel trucks from Sydney and Melbourne within three years would likely devastate the heavy vehicle industry and further push the price of essential goods sky high.
Clark said the Grattan Institute was vocal in seeking a move to trucks with wider dimensions but silent on general lack of fit-for-purpose regulation for trucks that remains a drag on productivity.
“NatRoad is committed to helping members with the process of decarbonisation but the move will need greater investment in technology and financial incentives to stimulate change to alternatively fuelled vehicles,” he said.
A scarcity of charging stations, long charging times compared to filling with diesel and higher up-front purchase costs are all major hurdles according to Clark.
“Some of its proposed solutions are heavy-handed grabs for headlines,” he said.
“Banning trucks from cities should be second place to encouraging their owners with incentives and assistance.”