A new record?

Tony McMullan, Truck Industry Council CEO.

At December year end 2007, a new all-time heavy vehicle sales record was set in Australia, with 38,131 new truck sales.

The following year our nation’s economy fell to the effects of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and truck sales plummeted. For over a decade industry waited for a new benchmark to be set. Eleven years on, the record books were finally rewritten at the close of 2018.

During the course of that year 41,628 new heavy vehicles were delivered.

Now with just new heavy vehicles sales to be posted for the month of December 2021, the industry is poised to see the record books rewritten again. That is no small achievement given the disruptions caused by COVID-19, both in Australia and globally.

Factory shutdowns, shipping delays, Australian capital city and regional centre lockdowns as well as local and global supply chain material shortages, particularly semi-conductor unavailability, would have normally supressed new truck deliveries.

However, due to an increase in online shopping due to restricted personal movements, an overall freight task that has remained solid throughout the pandemic, drought breaking rains leading to bumper crops and harvests and a booming housing construction sector, the need for more trucks has driven solid sales throughout 2021.

These conditions, coupled with substantial Federal Government incentives for the purchase of new capital equipment, has led to what could be record breaking sales, very much against industry expectations at the beginning of this year. If we do hit a new sales record in a month’s time, the way in which that high will be achieved is different to the records set in 2007 and 2018.

Those previous market peaks were founded upon record Heavy Duty segment truck sales.

In 2021, Heavy trucks will not set a new sales record. Instead, the increased numbers are coming from growth in the Light Duty Truck and Van segments, that will set new highs by the end of the year.

This is due to the boom in online shopping and home deliveries, that has required more vehicles on roads delivering this personalised freight.

The good news story with these record or near record, truck sales, is more heavy vehicles on our roads 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, in the fourteen years since the 2007 peak, we have witnessed the age of the Australian truck fleet steadily grow older, from 14.4 years in 2007 to 14.9 years average age in 2017.

Growing still older, despite record sales in 2018, with Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released earlier this year, detailing that average fleet age has broken the 15- year mark, now at 15.03 years. The bad news is that fleet replacement has not kept pace with Australia’s ever growing freight task.

While record sales this year would be 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 in a month’s time?

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.

The Truck Industry Council (TIC), and our members, are very conscious that more work must be done to improve heavy vehicle road safety in the years ahead and reducing the average age of the Australian truck park is a key enabler of better heavy vehicle safety outcomes.

As we approach a federal election next year, TIC calls upon all political parties to acknowledge the effectiveness of the current Federal Government incentive package, in renewing Australia’s old truck fleet.

TIC calls upon whichever government wins the 2022 federal election, to further extend incentives that lead to a positive reduction in our nation’s truck fleet age.

An outcome that will benefit all Australians. Tony McMullan CEO, Truck Industry Council

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