Hit the road: transport industry hoping to phase out pre-2008 trucks

Clunky and noisy pre-2008 trucks are on the chopping block. Recently, peak transport body Austroads unveiled a list of ways government could forcibly modernise the Australian and New Zealand heavy vehicle fleets. Potential ideas to inspire the retirement of battle-axe trucks include: dramatically increasing registration costs, banning old trucks from urban areas, scrappage schemes and paying owners to buy newer vehicles.

The top idea in the April 8 report was a road user charge. An Austroads spokesperson said the body hadn’t nailed down what this charge would look like. If adopted by Federal Government the charge would likely resemble the New Zealand charge, which is applied per 1000 km travelled.

Pre-2008 and pre-Euro IV trucks make up 56 per cent of Australia’s fleet, but cover only 11.6 per cent of kilometres driven. The top three industries identified in the report as being most reliant on old trucks are miscellaneous manufactured articles, cereal grains and machinery.

Excerpts from the Options for Managing the Impacts of Aged Heavy Vehicles report.

In the report Austroads admitted the situation had to be handled carefully due to the popularity of old trucks in low-margin tasks such as farm work, rural delivery and fleet filler at peak times. “Any of the measures researched in our report would require consideration of local context and needs and could require specific exemptions,” the Austroads spokesperson said.

Lead consultant Mark Gjerk said an ageing fleet was a difficult problem to overcome, but now was the perfect time to do so. “Freight and heavy vehicle regulation and planning are currently being reviewed on several fronts,” Mr Gjerk said. The report itself began after members of the trucking industry raised concerns around the sustainability of the heavy vehicle industry.

A Victorian Department of Transport spokesperson said the industry was already being pushed towards newer vehicles by the Grain Harvest Management Scheme and performance-based standards. “By encouraging the use of more efficient vehicles and moving more freight onto our rail network, we’re making our transport network more sustainable than ever before,” the spokesperson said. These rail freight projects include Inland Rail, Murray Basin Rail and Port Rail Shuttle Network.

In the report Austroads noted the upcoming shift towards rail freight might age the heavy vehicle fleet further, as companies no longer needed brand new trucks for long-haulage jobs. One of the ideas investigated by Austroads — increased registration costs — was singled out as a shocker by the VFF. VFF president Emma Germano said while many farmers were supportive of safer and greener trucks, the proposal to increase registrations was unrealistic.

“In some cases we could see some trucks costing up to £20,000 to register,” Ms Germano said.

The VFF recently wrote to the Victorian Roads Minister Ben Carroll to express its backing of financial incentive programs, not increased registration fees.

Excerpts from the Options for Managing the Impacts of Aged Heavy Vehicles report.

The average age of trucks in Australia and New Zealand stands at 15 years and 18 years respectively.

This is due to a lack of a truck wrecking industry and few restrictions on old vehicles.