It’s the Infrastructure, Stupid!

it's the infrastructure, stupid!

A lot of people in the trucking industry are wringing their hands and have concerns about how our industry is going to make that transition across to zero carbon operation over the next 25 or so years, but what they need to realise is, to misquote Bill Clinton, it’s not the trucks, it’s the infrastructure, stupid!  

On the evidence of a number of test drives, which I have made in the last few years, looking at the latest electric and fuel cell trucks to come into the country, the technological progress being made by truck manufacturers is rapid, they are learning fast.

The sophistication and the smooth operation of the latest electric trucks from the major manufacturers is showing us that it is possible to make a reliable and effective zero carbon truck for the trucking industry in Australia.

Of course, there are going to be very difficult applications, especially in outback areas, running extremely high GCMs. In those areas there will be special developments and relaxation of some regulations, in order to get the job done. It is not certain that an internal combustion engine using hydrogen cannot do the job, but probable. 

So that’s the rolling stock side of the equation pretty much under control. The problem is going to come when we start to look at the infrastructure behind it.

With items like electric trucks, it is possible to take something which was designed for North America or Europe, or Japan, and bring it to Australia, then adapt it to our conditions, so it will work fine.

What can’t just be taken from those developed countries and dropped into the Australian trucking industry is the recharging and refilling infrastructure needed to support zero carbon trucks.

It’s back to that old phrase used regularly when we’re talking about Australia as a whole, ‘the tyranny of distance’. As a trucking industry, we are unique in Australia in several ways. The distances we cover are massive in comparison to most other developed countries and the on-road masses are also unimaginable in most corners of the world.

It will be possible to decarbonise, but it is going to be more difficult for us because we have a relatively small population and a relatively large landmass. Our cities are spread around the periphery of the country with vast instances in between.

This means that the planning, placing and construction of the kind of infrastructure, which will support the increasing level of freight road transport required between now and 2050, is going to be a massive task,

It is not something which can be left up to the various businesses, which will be looking to capitalise on the changes and planning to supply electric charge or hydrogen to transport operators.

It is going to need government planning, government funding and some smart ‘out of the box’ thinking to get decarbonisation in the trucking industry in Australia, right. The job is too important to be left to private industry to get the job done. The infrastructure is too important to be left to businesses, driven by shareholder sentiment, and the need to make substantial profits.

We may get the infrastructure we need, to a degree, but we may not get the infrastructure we want, if the federal and state governments don’t get together and create a clear and well-considered route to zero carbon road transport, which includes all of the issues around the development of infrastructure to meet the upcoming demand.

This is a massive challenge for everyone involved with the trucking industry and we have seen already that even the big players in truck manufacturing are struggling to get the research and development funding needed to get the zero carbon product right. 

Massive corporations, like Daimler Trucks, Volvo Trucks and DAF, as well as Scania and MAN are all working together on developing infrastructure to support their planned zero carbon trucks. None of them can afford to do the job on their own.

The same will be true for those who will be developing the infrastructure to support zero emission trucks in the lead up to 2050. There will need to be government direction, planning and funding to make sure that it is effective for the entire Australian economy and not just for the shareholders of the big energy suppliers.


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