At December year end 2018, a new all-time heavy vehicle sales record was set in Australia, with 41,628 trucks and heavy vans delivered for the year.
A little over a year later our nation’s economy fell to the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic and truck sales plummeted to just 34,476 for the year of 2020.
That fall was due to a number of factors, principally, global supply disruptions and significant business uncertainty in Australia regarding the economic impacts of COVID lockdowns and disruptions.
However, trucks played a major role in keeping Australia operating during the pandemic, home deliveries boomed, supermarket shelves remained stocked despite some panic buying at times, medical supplies, including vaccines were delivered, garbage services were maintained, construction materials continued to be delivered, etc.
In fact, road freight was one of the few industries to transcend state and territory border closures.
The importance of road freight during this period of uncertainty built renewed business confidence within the sector and this, coupled with strategic Federal Government COVID financial incentives saw a significant resurgence of new truck sales in 2021.
Some 41,404 trucks and heavy vans were delivered, falling just a couple of hundred vehicles short of the 2018 record, an amazing achievement given the ongoing global supply chain problems.
Four years on from the 2018 high, the record books can be rewritten again. In 2022 there was 44,379 heavy vehicle sales for the year, comfortably surpassing the 2018 mark.
In fact, for only the third time ever, the Truck Industry Council’s (TIC) T-Mark sales data shows that over 40,000 trucks and heavy vans were sold in Australia in a single calendar year. The good news is that more new heavy vehicles were put onto our roads in 2022 than in any other previous year.
That means more vehicles with the latest safety features, more fuel-efficient engines and drivelines, better exhaust emission performance and more higher productivity vehicles.
These safer, greener, cleaner and more productive trucks offer all road users improved heavy vehicle safety; they offer all Australians cleaner air to breathe; and they offer operators potential productivity benefits and reduced operating costs.
However, despite record, or near record, sales in 2018, 2021 and 2022, we have witnessed the age of the Australian truck fleet steadily grow older, from 14.4 years in 2007 to 15.0 years average age in 2021, as the nation’s freight task continues to grow year-on-year.
The bad news is that fleet replacement has not kept pace with this freight growth. While record sales are a starting point, it will in fact take more than a decade of year-on-year record sales for the truck park to return to 14.4 years average age, a number that is twice that of most European countries.
A number, that we as a nation, should not be proud of. So why do I mention this, when many might expect celebrations are in order for these new record sales?
The answer is simple, the Australian road toll is too high and heavy vehicles are over-represented in those crashes and this is partly to do with the fact that the older trucks in our nation’s truck fleet do not feature the advanced safety features found in newer trucks.
Further, Australia’s existing truck fleet is almost 100 per cent diesel-powered.
In order to meet our Federal Government’s global greenhouse reduction commitments, operators need to embrace low and zero emission truck technologies when purchasing new trucks.
TIC and our members are very conscious that more must be done to improve heavy vehicle road safety and reduce the carbon footprint of the Australian heavy vehicle fleet and to this end are bringing to market trucks and heavy vans featuring the latest safety and emission technologies, together with an increased range of low and zero emission models. Thus, providing the enabler to better heavy vehicle safety and environmental outcomes.
However, government action is also required, after all, government on behalf of the public are undertaking a structural readjustment of the economy in order to meet climate change objectives.
TIC calls upon Australian governments at all levels to acknowledge the age of the truck fleet and the associated safety and environmental issues and develop policy, such as the successful instant asset tax incentives deployed by the federal Coalition Government during COVID, that will lead to a positive reduction in our nation’s truck fleet age, an outcome that will benefit all Australians.