Carbon tax inequality between transport modes

The road/ rail rift has intensified following news that the trucking industry was successful in negotiating with the Government for an exemption from the new carbon tax until July 1, 2014. In contrast, the rail sector will be slugged with the tax from July 1 next year.

Commenting on trucking’s two year tax exemption, Australian Trucking Association (ATA) chairman David Simon said the government’s decision would give small trucking businesses breathing space to increase their fuel efficiency and renegotiate contracts with their customers.

“In the lead-up to the announcement, the ATA argued strongly that trucking operators should be exempt from the carbon tax altogether,” David Simon said. “In a series of meetings, including with Minister Combet’s senior staff, we pointed out that 85 percent of trucking businesses have fewer than five employees, and a limited ability to pass on increases in their costs.

“We also stressed that the industry has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent per billion tonne kilometres since 1990, as well as massively reduced its other emissions, at a cost to the industry of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

On July 1, 2014, the effective fuel tax paid by trucking operators will increase by 6.858 cents per litre, matching the planned 2014-15 carbon price of $25.40. This is expected to cost the industry and its customers $510 million in 2014-15 alone. The industry’s effective fuel tax will then vary every six months as Australia’s carbon price changes.

“I would like to thank the Government for listening,” Simon continued. “The exemption will give trucking operators time to renegotiate long-term contracts with their customers and look at how to improve their fuel efficiency.”

However, he stressed that the Government would need to push ahead with fixing the road transport regulations and charges that prevent trucking operators from using the most efficient equipment.

“The ATA’s recent environmental report shows the industry’s ability to reduce its fuel consumption is restricted by government regulation, poorly thought out charges and a lack of research and development on energy-saving technology,” he concluded.

Far from surprisingly, the announcement of trucking’s exemption has got right up the rail sector’s nose with the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) claiming it “… will essentially punish environmentally friendly rail and reward heavy vehicles.”

According to ARA chief Bryan Nye, the association has been a strong advocate for including the entire transport sector in the carbon price and the exclusion of heavy vehicles from a carbon tax until 2014 is very disappointing.

“While rail supports action on climate change, under this scheme rail, which is considerably less emissions intensive, will have to grapple with significant increases in its costs, while the more polluting road vehicles are exempt,” said Nye. “This carbon tax will essentially make public transport more expensive compared to private road vehicles. I can’t see how this is meant to reduce emissions, it is ludicrous.”

The carbon price is expected to cost the rail industry in excess of $100 million dollars for energy costs alone.

“We’ve recently conducted a comprehensive survey on public transport,” he continued. “Out of 1510 participants surveyed, 72 percent believed that some of the carbon tax revenue should be used for sustainable transport infrastructure such as public transport. It is strange that the carbon price announcement provides little in the way of low-carbon transport options. We urge that funds set aside for clean technologies be extended to the transport sector.”

Brian went on to reiterate that while the rail industry wants to see action on climate change, it objects to the way the carbon price within the transport sector is currently penalising the low-carbon transport options.

“It’s not too late to rectify some of these issues and I urge all parties to rethink the application of the carbon price on the transport sector to ensure a level playing field. As a priority, heavy vehicles must be included from the beginning of the scheme,” he concluded.

SuperRigs contest attracts America’s finest

Shell’s annual SuperRigs calendar contest attracts America’s finest trucks and typically, 2011 showcased the skill and passion of US truckers not only vying for prizes in the various categories but also a highly coveted spot on the next US SuperRigs calendar. Our North American correspondent STEVE STURGESS wouldn’t miss it for quids, mainly because he’s one of the judges.

American Custom

Shell’s calendar shoot and beauty show are still the biggest glamour event for trucks in North America and while this year’s 29th Shell Rotella SuperRigs contest saw just 60 sensationally prepared trucks lining up for honours in Kenly, North Carolina, the quality of the rigs was as high as ever.

The contest for America’s most glamorous rigs moves to a different venue each year but no matter where it’s held, truckers and their families come from all over to compete or to just stare and be amazed at the craftsmanship and attention to detail that make these the most spectacular rigs in American trucking: And all the more spectacular for the fact that the great majority are working trucks, earning a living day in and day out, and some with well over a million miles on the clock.

In most cases, the two and a half days event is paradise for Peterbilt fans with the iconic Paccar brand dominating exhibits. But Petes certainly don’t have a mortgage on the contest, with corporate cohort Kenworth also grabbing a healthy slice of the action along with a smattering of Freightliner and Mack.

As always though, there’s plenty of nail biting because except for the truck that wins ‘Best of Show’, a spot on the calendar is not necessarily guaranteed even if the rig is a winner in its class or category.

So in addition to the three top places there are also 15 class places and six category winners, but then only 11 available slots on the calendar. Altogether a lot of reasons for the owners of the nation’s top glamour trucks to pull out all the stops, as this selection of photos shows.

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  • Best of Show trophy and a $10,000 cheque went to Jeremy Heidersheit with his 2003 Peterbilt and immaculate soft-sided trailer.
  • Proving that Petes don’t win everything, Scott Diller’s Kenworth W900 won its way into the SuperRigs calendar shoot. On the inside, the hot-rod theme displayed amazing craftsmanship.
  • High achiever in the tractor-trailer class, for obvious reasons.
  • Green mean machine was stunningly finished but it’s not a full-time working truck so it didn’t score highly with the judges
  • Top scores in the Classic class were won by this ’96 Peterbilt 379 model. The story goes it was once a used and abused logging truck and believe it or not, it now spends its days in the muck and filth of the landfill business.
  • Another highly awarded Kenworth. This one was also a star attraction in the ‘night lights’ show.
  • Winner in the Top Tractor category, this ’06 Peterbilt 379 was something of a return to the old days with a small flat-top sleeper and creative striping.
  • Earning a ‘First Runner-Up’ trophy and a fat cheque was this immaculate 2007 Peterbilt and soft-sided trailer combination.
  • Top honors in the tractor-trailer class went to T. J. Timblin’s ’05 Kenworth W900L pulling a step-frame trailer. Despite losing a leg in a loading accident, young T.J. still drives just about every day.
  • Farmers Oil fuel tanker rig was judged ‘Peoples Choice’ by fellow competitors and show visitors alike. Easy to see why!
  • This Pete didn’t win a place in any particular class event but it was still judged good enough to win a spot in the SuperRigs calendar.
  • There’s still bite in the old dog. Best Engine presentation went to a V8 Mack Super-Liner, along with Best Interior and a runner-up trophy for Best of Show.
  • In the 29 year history of the Shell SuperRigs event, this 1989 LTL is the first Ford to win a place in the calendar.
  • Southern pride. The stripes are straight from Starsky and Hutch and the detail was good enough to win a coveted place on the calendar.
  • A trick paint scheme and ‘extra’ shiny wheels on the tridem of this Kenworth W900L grabbed the judges’ attention and a spot on the SuperRigs 2012 calendar.
  • Patriot! The mural on this 2001 Freightliner needs no explanation.
  • Looks are deceiving because despite the immaculate appearance of truck and trailer, this outfit is a true workhorse, spending its days spreading fertiliser in fields.
  • Three million miles and a fastidious owner have been amazingly kind to this 1987 Peterbilt.
  • Black beauty. Even at SuperRigs there’s still a place for the minimal look.