A constant refrain from people in the road transport industry is that there is no clear strategic plan on most of the topics, which concern the development of the trucking industry into the future, planning seems to always be last minute and chaotic.
Without a clear picture of how different solutions will roll out, there is no chance to make long term strategic plans. Without a plan, you are always playing catch-up at the last minute.
There are numerous examples, here are a few.
There is no clear way forward on the development of an alternative to the road user charge which is the current way the industry currently pays the governments of Australia, to compensate for and cover the wear and tear on the roads caused by our heavy trucks.
The current usage of fuel excise is likely to become obsolete, as the industry moves over to zero emission vehicles, but there is no alternative in sight. Initiatives to develop mass/distance/location charging models have come and gone.
On the topic of zero emission vehicles, there is also no clear roadmap about how legislation will roll out to ensure that the industry moves towards zero carbon emissions. At the same time, there is also a complete lack of any overall plan to roll out the kind of recharging, refuelling infrastructure for alt-power trucks the trucking industry will be using in the future, as it moves across to new technologies.
There doesn’t appear to be any kind of strategy on the part of the various governments around the country as to how the new technologies, which will be used in the trucking industry, will be supported.
There is a lot of hype and talk from various parties about things like the development of green hydrogen or batteries. In actual fact, we have no clear idea of where we’re going to be in 10 or 15 years time. By that time, the country should be well on the way to reducing its carbon emissions by 50 per cent. Yet, we have no clear plan being developed as to how that will happen.
We have had the first small moves in the regulations about axle weights and overall vehicle weights from two state governments, on a trial basis. If we are going to introduce trucks powered by electric and hydrogen, then a much clearer picture is going to have to emerge, as soon as possible.
There is no way that Australia will be developing its own vehicles freight vehicles into the future. That ship has sailed many years ago. Therefore we will need to use vehicles and technology developed in places where different axle masses are allowed.
The fact of the matter is these vehicles will have to run on our roads, and the road managers will have to work out a way to avoid the catastrophic issues that they claim will ensue, if axle masses are raised above a certain level.
As I go around the country, talking to people in the trucking industry, there is a clear understanding of exactly where we need to go. Most people are on board with the idea of heading towards zero carbon emissions by 2050.
However, because there is no clear indication, on the part of the powers that be around the country, or the regulators, on how we’re going to get to the target, there is a lot of uncertainty. Responsible businesses which like to plan into the future are unable to do that, because the regulatory/political situation is worse than unclear. It’s chaotic.
It’s clear that the trucking industry will begin reducing its carbon emissions ,without any direction from government, and the main driver towards low emissions seems to be the imperatives of the large corporates who, in many cases, are the ultimate customer for a lot of the transport services the industry provides.
This is not an ideal situation and a clear, distinct development path needs to be in place as soon as possible. If we are going to retain a powerful trucking industry which will support ongoing economic growth in our country.