There is a great deal of uncertainty at the moment about how future trucks are going to be powered, but there is one thing we can be sure of, change is going to come. If it does we need to be as ready as possible, staying informed and keeping up with the game.
Often, when the rest of the world moves in a new direction, we are resistant to change and carry on regardless in our own way in Australia. However, there are some developments which can change so rapidly and radically, that we have to go along with the new way of doing things whether we like it or not.
This is certainly the case when we look at the power sources used to move trucks from A to B. We have become the most efficient users of diesel engines in the world, when it come to shifting road freight. The Australian trucking industry has developed the road train and B-double to a level of sophistication that is unmatched anywhere.
Trucking could keep going in the same direction improving productivity with smart ideas and good engineering, all the time powered by diesel. However, most of the rest of the world is not going to go in this direction.
Australia’s government, at the moment, is one of very few which are not going to acknowledge climate change, and certainly aren’t going to put financial incentives in place to aid a shift away from fossil fuels and into the brave new world, to a choice of a number of alternative power technologies.
We, as an industry, can decide to ignore the rest of the world and keep plugging away with diesel power. If we keep up that kind of attitude, trucks in Australia will end up like the old American cars in Cuba, which the locals continually rebuild, because they can’t get new vehicles to replace them.
We are already seeing the big players in the truck industry, globally, turning their back on diesel. Daimler Trucks has decided to sub-contract out the global production of medium duty diesel engines to Cummins. The reason? They will not waste development dollars on a new diesel when they are planning to make all of their trucks powered by either electricity, fuel cells or some other alternative.
Where Daimler go, so will all of the other truck makers around the world. Even the most iconic engine maker in Australia, Cummins, is diverting much of its research and development funding into non-fossil fuel alternatives.
There will be very few new diesel engines developed in the future. If we want to keep on using them, we will have to continually rebuild what we already have with a diminishing, and expensive, component supply.
Road transport is too important to the Australian economy to be allowed to lose efficiency. We have to get serious about the new alternatives. The problem is which horse to back. There are a number of possible winners, from battery electric, fuel cell electric, hydrogen internal combustion, biogas power and others which we haven’t heard of yet.
The point is, change is going to come, but at the moment, we don’t know how fast it is going to change. It is inevitable, so we might as well get ready now.