Australia lags over a decade behind health emission regulations

A year and a half ago, in my December 2020 column, I called on the Australian Government to act on implementing ADR80/04, Euro VI and equivalent alternative standards from Japan and the USA.

I detailed in 2020 that the Australian Federal Government has a mandate to align with international regulations where ever practical.

This is part of an overarching global harmonisation strategy that is aimed at enabling trade to be accomplished between our country and international markets, whilst reducing the time, effort and expense of developing Australian specific laws and rules.

This is a two-way street, allowing products from Australia to be exported more efficiently and allowing us to import goods that have been developed to international regulations, rather than to Australian specific laws.

The end result is the ability for our exporters to play on the world stage and more choice for Australian consumers.

In the new vehicle space, this international harmonisation is achieved by a piece of regulation known as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Agreement for World Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations – 1958, known within government and industry circles simply as ‘the ’58 Agreement’, of which Australia has been a signatory since the year 2000.

Under our ‘58 Agreement obligations, Australia adopts European safety and environmental vehicle regulations where appropriate and typically within two, to four years, after implementation in Europe.

A notable exception to this practice is Australia’s non adoption of the Euro VI emission standard for heavy vehicles.

This regulation came into effect from 2014 in Europe. Japan adopted this regulation in 2015, while the USA led the world, moving to an equivalent emission standard, US-EPA10, way back in 2010, twelve years ago now.

Recent announcements by Mexico, China and India, will see these countries all adopt Euro VI, or equivalent standards, well before Australia, as we are yet to set an introduction date.

In October 2020, the federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications released its Draft Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) for public information and comment, the first step in the process for the adoption of better exhaust emission standards.

Just as it would appear that our regulators were finally moving on the issue of improving Australian air quality, that was not the whole story.

For those with a long memory, this was not the first attempt at implementing Euro VI that the Australian Government has undertaken.

Back in late 2015, the then Abbott government announced, with much fanfare, “a whole of government approach” to the introduction of new vehicle emission standards.

A year later, in late 2016, a Draft RIS was released that outlined the benefits of moving to cleaner vehicles. Nothing eventuated from that process.

Some six and a half years later, there is still no regulation in place. This is despite regulatory support from the heavy vehicle manufactures, operator organisations such as the ATA and Natroads, States and Territories alike.

The October 2020 RIS made a compelling case for cleaner heavy vehicle emission standards.

Financial analysis by Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics in Canberra, found there would be a direct benefit, to the health and wellbeing of the Australian community, of $6,672 million by 2050 if ADR80/04 was adopted.

This would have an indirect benefit to governments by reducing pressure on the public health system. The majority of health benefits will accrue in metropolitan areas, where the number of people and average level of exposure to noxious emissions from road vehicles is greater.

The benefits for Australia and our population, do not stop with the cleaner air health outcomes, the implementation of ADR80/04 would bring a reduction in new truck CO2 emissions of approximately five per cent over current ageing regulations.

There are also operator fuel savings to be had with these new cleaner engines. Most importantly, Australia would see the introduction of the latest truck safety technologies from leading global markets.

Safety systems that are largely unavailable on our current regulation ADR80/03 trucks, these models being tied to electrical and systems architecture that is over a decade old now.

In 2015 the Truck Industry Council (TIC)strongly supported the introduction of Euro VI and alternative emission standards from Japan and the USA, for Australia.

That TIC position has not wavered. We continue to call upon our Federal Government to introduce Euro VI and alternative standards, sooner than the 2027/2028 timeline that is recommended in the 2020 RIS.

Australian vehicle emission regulation already lags over a decade behind many global markets, regulatory action must be taken without further delay.

Tony McMullan,
CEO, Truck Industry Council

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