While it is still early days since the recent federal election and the appointment of a new Labor Government, there are signs that the winds of change are blowing through our nation’s capital.
From the perspective of the Truck Industry Council (TIC) and our members, the local truck manufacturers and importers, we are looking forward to working with the Albanese government.
TIC’s direct engagement with Mr Albanese stretches well back to when Labor was last in power and he was the National Transport Minister.
That relationship continued through Labor’s time in opposition, where Mr Albanese was the Shadow Transport Minister up until he took the reins as party leader in 2019.
As a former minister directly responsible for transport in Australia, Mr Albanese knows very well the importance of the heavy vehicle road freight sector and significant role that trucks play in supplying goods and services to all Australians every day, to the rural and mining sectors and ensuring timely transportation to the docks and airports to keep our valuable export trade moving.
He is also aware of the challenges that our industry faces, an ageing driver collective, skills shortages, rising operational costs, an ever-ageing truck fleet that lags much of the world with regard to current safety and environmental systems and the unfortunate, but ever present, road trauma that is associated with any vehicle network.
Then there is the emerging problem of how to decarbonise the transport sector, an issue that the world is struggling with.
There is no shortage of ideas, however a clear direction, or solution, is yet to emerge and the challenges for Australia are greater than most.
A sparsely settled country that is reliant on an effective and affordable road transport network to service our needs for personal and freight movements.
No other form of transport can offer the coverage, flexibility and bottom-line economic value that road can in Australia.
However, as we transition to low- and zero-emission vehicles challenges will emerge.
How will we fund road infrastructure, for example? The current Road User Charging (RUC) model relies on the fuel excise tax gained from diesel and petrol.
Those funds will diminish over time as we transition away from fossil fuels. On this RUC issue, the reform discussion needs to start now.
Truck owners and operators, freight companies, car owners, fleet and leasing organisations, state and territory governments, all need a clear understanding of how the RUC will work moving forward.
Essential changes to the RUC will determine future road expenditure, influence the technologies that will power our future trucks and cars and determine when we are likely to witness the tipping point away from diesel and petrol.
Given that truck model development cycles are typically ten years, or greater, vehicle manufacturers need clear directional intent now, from our government.
Other key issues that TIC will be discussing with the new government include, implementation of ADR80/04 (Euro 6 and equivalent alternative regulations from Japan and the USA).
With no action by the previous government, Australia now lags Europe and the US by a decade with regard to noxious vehicle emissions and we are potentially faced with the embarrassing situation that these regions will move to Euro 7 before Australia implements Euro 6.
Our ageing truck park, one of the oldest in the developed world, will be a significant impediment to transitioning to a low/zero emission future and the impacts of not having the latest safety technologies across our heavy vehicle fleet are well documented.
TIC will be discussing measures aimed at increasing the retirement rate of older trucks, while incentivising new, safer, cleaner, greener and more productive new vehicles.
Heading those discussions will be much needed mass and dimensional reform for heavy vehicles, aligning our regulations with globally accepted practice.
Finally, the Road Vehicle Standards Act reform process was poorly administered and executed. TIC members are spending significantly more time and money certifying new model trucks to the same Australia Design Rules that existed under the previous Act.
There have been no safety benefits derived from the new system, just significantly more cost.
These failings need to be addressed by the incoming government, otherwise all new motor vehicles will needlessly cost consumer more to purchase.
The road ahead will be challenging. However, TIC and our members are looking forward to working with the new Labor Government to progress real regulatory reform that will benefit the road transport industry and in turn all Australians.
Truck Industry Council