Do as I say, not as I do…

It was pleasing to note last month that there are five TIC members who are currently offering Euro 6 or equivalent vehicles for purchase in Australia. What I did not get time to mention in my last column is that there are three TIC members who are actively involved with the supply of alternatively fuelled and powered trucks, specifically CNG and diesel/electric hybrids. These trucks, along with similar offerings from car manufacturers, offer CO2 emission savings of up to 20 per cent over conventional diesel or petrol powered vehicles, with emission savings from full electric vehicles being even greater. In the case of trucks, total Australian sales of these fuel efficient, low emission vehicles is quite poor, making up less than 0.4 per cent of all 2015 new truck purchases. Sales of new gas, hybrid and electric cars are not much better.

So why are sales of these alternatively fuelled and powered trucks so poor? Well there are a few possible reasons. Firstly due to the electrical storage batteries, or the gas tanks that are required to store enough energy to ensure a reasonable range, these trucks are heavier than their diesel engine equivalents, resulting in a payload reduction. Secondly is upfront purchase price, as these vehicles attract a premium due to expensive electrical systems, batteries or gas equipment. While the reduced running costs will offset the higher purchase price over time, it appears that many operators baulk at the additional initial outlay.

You would expect that our state, territory and federal governments, who always take the moral high ground in vehicle emission discussions, would lead by example, offering investment allowances, reduced registration and road user charges and increased mass limits to offset additional vehicle weight, as well as the purchasing of such low emission vehicles for their own government fleets.

Apparently not. One of the more damning statistics that highlights the government’s apparent indifference to this issue was recently outlined by the National Transport Commission (NTC). In its annual review of fuel-efficient, low emission light vehicles (cars, SUVs and light commercials) the NTC publishes the purchasing behaviour of Australians in their choices of fuel-efficient vehicles. Using VFACTS data supplied by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the NTC collates a vehicle’s ADR 81/02 fuel efficiency rating verses the buyer type.

The report found that in 2015, private buyers purchased vehicles with the lowest average emissions intensity (an average of 178 g/km), followed by business buyers (190 g/km), while the highest emission intensity vehicles were purchased by government (204 g/km). A similar emission comparison is not available for heavy vehicles because there is no regulation that measures and rates the fuel efficiency of trucks. However there is nothing to suggest that our government’s purchasing behaviour would be any different when it comes to their heavy vehicle investments, even if fuel efficiency comparisons existed. The NTC report clearly shows that Australian governments may have idealistic intentions but the reality appears to be a clear case of “Do as I say, not as I do………”

Australian Governments are in the perfect position to “lead by example”, as many other governments around the world do. Our government bodies should be setting an example, purchasing vehicles with the lowest emission intensities. Vehicles that would eventually be sold into the pre-owned market, allowing individuals who may not be able to afford a new hybrid, CNG or electric vehicle to grab a relatively low mileage vehicle at a reduced price. This is just one possible measure to assist the uptake of low emission technology vehicles.

The above case highlights that government should be looking to industry and user group assistance to find solutions to address heavy vehicle emissions. Solutions such as those suggested in TIC’s National Truck Plan would see the take up of more new cleaner, safer and more productive trucks in Australia.

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