An Agenda for a New Government

By the time you read this article, Australia will have its next government. Apart from announcements pertaining to funding commitments, transport from a policy point of view has not seen much in the way of comment by the nation’s political parties in this campaign. I was however particularly interested in a comment made in the campaign with regard to noisy, polluting and dangerous trucks and the suggestion that trucks should only be allowed to operate between 7am and 6pm in urban areas.

Despite commentary to the contrary, Truck Industry Council (TIC) research confirms the view that the public (two-thirds of those surveyed) understands the essential role trucks play in our day to day lives and to our standard of living. This would suggest that limiting truck access to day time hours would in effect lead to unintended economic and social consequences for the public. Principal amongst these consequences is the increased levels of congestion that would be experienced as the population grows along with the associated growth in traffic particularly in peak hours. That is not to make any mention of the increased levels of harmful emissions that would impact the environment given the stop start nature of traffic flows at such times and the added costs that would be borne by the consumer as product is delayed.

The TIC is of the view that the urban freight task requires joint national and state policy attention. Urban freight accounts for about three quarters of all freight movements and is increasing rapidly with forecasts by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics suggesting an increase of 80 percent to the year 2020. As a subject matter it is worthy to note from a policy viewpoint that urban freight has not been subject to the reform agenda that has come to characterise long haul freight. Trucks remain the principal mode of transport for the distribution of goods across this country and within our cities and communities. The focus upon generating policy direction was the motivation behind the TIC sponsored Moving Urban Freight symposium held in 2008. The industry can expect to see increasing attention by Governments as they wrestle with the problems associated with an increasing urban freight task. To suggest the answer lies in restricting the hours of truck operation is just not practical. The answer however does lie in the practice of employing new technology to solve such problems.

Over the past 15 years truck manufacturers have made significant progress in developing trucks that are safer and greener. For example, with the environment such a dominant issue in public policy debate today, it is a telling point that it would take SIXTY of today’s trucks to equal the exhaust emission levels of ONE pre 1995 model truck. Truck Industry Council members are responding positively to concerns by the public and see it as their social responsibility to build trucks that meet current world’s best safety and environmental standards. Truck manufacturers are well advanced in the production of alternative fuelled vehicles, including LNG and CNG, Ethanol, and Hybrid. These vehicles not only reduce Australia reliance on imported oil, but also reduce GHG emissions by over 20%.

The Truck Industry Council supports measures by government to ensure the optimum use (24/7) of the existing road network to ease congestion and reduce delivery times, and the introduction of high productivity vehicles through Performance Based Standards (PBS). In addition, the Council would support the practical implementation of low emission zones and clean truck programs to further improve urban air quality.

The more challenging role for Government in the transport policy debate is to acknowledge the central role trucks play in our economy and to encourage, through incentives, the uptake of new low emission vehicles which by their design are safer and quieter in urban application. The Truck Industry Council seeks to work in partnership with Government to achieve such a policy setting.

Phil Taylor

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