It’s not easy being green, particularly if you are a truck

The report showed that while improvements were being made in CO2 emissions from conventional petrol and diesel powered light vehicles, the sales uptake of hybrid, electric and alternatively fuelled (mainly LPG) passenger cars, four wheel drives, people movers, utes and light commercial vans represented just one per cent of sales in these sectors.

That found me thinking about the uptake of new alternatively fuelled and powered trucks in this country. With a number of Truck Industry Council (TIC) members currently offering Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and diesel/electric hybrid trucks in the Australian market, just what was the uptake of these cleaner and greener technologies? Were we doing better or worse than our light vehicle counterparts? To quantify the situation I turned to TIC’s new truck sales data, T-Mark, for a breakdown of the numbers.

I immediately noted that the numbers varied somewhat from year to year. Not that surprising when you consider the purchasing behaviour of truck fleets, who typically buy new equipment upon winning additional freight contracts and replace existing trucks based on a mix of age, distance travelled and ongoing maintenance costs. These fleet renewal decisions lead to a certain ebb and flow in new truck purchases from customer to customer. To dampen these highs and lows I have taken an average of the numbers from the T-Mark new truck sales data for 2012, 2013 and 2014 to come up with the following numbers.

In the Heavy Duty segment (trucks with three or more axles) there were no sales recorded between 2012 and 2014 for alternatively fuelled or hybrid trucks. In the over 8.0t GVM, two axle Medium Duty segment, data for CNG powered trucks showed that on average 13 trucks were sold per year, while just two hybrid trucks per year were sold in the MD segment, giving average sales of just 0.2 per cent for the segment. The story was somewhat better in the Light Duty truck segment, particularly for hybrid models, which saw on average 73 sales per year, ahead of CNG LD trucks at five sales per year, average sales of 0.9 per cent for the LD truck class. Currently none of the Light Duty van manufacturers offer alternatively fuelled or hybrid products, hence sales in this segment were zero. The total truck and van market sales of new alternatively fuelled or hybrid vehicles above 3.5t GVM over the past three years averaged out at just 0.3 per cent of all heavy vehicles sales.

So we can conclude that new sales of these more environmentally friendly trucks lag those of the light vehicles sector by a factor of three to one in Australia. But why?

The NTC’s report offers some insight. Their report details that the major purchasers of hybrid, electric and alternatively fuelled light vehicles in Australia are private buyers, followed by government and then businesses. In general, private buyers don’t purchase trucks, only government and business. Further it can be assumed that businesses make rational vehicle purchasing decisions based on upfront capital costs, payback periods, running costs, resale values, etc. In our somewhat fragile post-GFC economy and with the low margins that typically exist in our road transport industry, business has obviously come to the conclusion that their bottom line is more important than the environment, be that with light or heavy vehicle purchases.

I applaud those companies out there who have the vision and the social conscience to venture where few fear to tread in this country, I only wish there were more of them. When you consider that Australia has the largest known reserves of natural gas in the world – gas that we extract and happily export to all parts of the world rather than use domestically – to ensure the fuel security of our own transport sector that is now dependant on over 90 per cent imported fuel, you must question the priorities and policies of successive governments.

Obviously the current business case for alternatively fuelled and powered trucks in Australia is at best marginal, but this could change overnight if Australian government was to offer incentives, such as those proposed in TIC’s National Truck Plan, for the uptake of new safer and more environmentally friendly trucks.

Leave a Reply

  1. Australian Truck Radio Listen Live
Send this to a friend