This week’s announcement that allowable truck widths are to increase from 2.5m to 2.55m is seen as a ‘game changer’ for the uptake of electric big rigs in Australia, according to the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC).
Up until now, most overseas-built models were just a few centimetres too wide to meet Australia’s previous design rules.
Tesla, for one, had warned back in 2021 that its Semi electric truck would not be released in Australia as they were 30-50mm over the existing width limit.
EVC chief executive Behyad Jafari said the electric vehicle industry has been calling for the change for several years, and he congratulates the government for working collaboratively with industry and other stakeholders to deliver this important change.
“Increasing the width limit of trucks brings Australia in line with major overseas markets, like the EU, which is vital if we want to increase the supply of electric trucks on our roads,” Jafari said.
“Being out of step with international regulation has restricted the supply of electric trucks into Australia. Aligning these standards will make it simpler and cheaper for Australian operators to access electric trucks, while also improving productivity, freight efficiency and safety.
“Australia is dependent on trucks to deliver goods across our massive nation, meaning they make up around one-fifth of the country’s transport emissions. Having more electric trucks crossing the country will reduce transport emissions, improve air quality, cut the cost of freight and reduce operating costs for owners as we decrease our reliance on expensive, imported fuel.”
Jafari, however, warns that the width limit change is just a great first step.
“We encourage the federal government to build on this announcement by introducing a mass concession (one tonne minimum) for electric trucks, and making it cheaper and attractive for Australian businesses wanting to embrace this technology. More broadly, we need a National Electric Heavy Vehicle Strategy that outlines a plan to decarbonise our heavy vehicle fleet over the long haul.”
The Australian Trucking Association also welcomed the safety package for the new, wider trucks, which includes better indirect vision for drivers, lane departure warning, side underrun protection for rigid trucks and high visibility marking for rigid trucks.
“The new requirements for seeing into blind spots will increase safety for car drivers, pedestrians and cyclists,” said ATA chair David Smith.
“The ATA has long argued that trucks need more and better blind spot mirrors. This is particularly true for bonneted trucks, where drivers need to be able to see into their front blind spot.
“But at the same time, drivers need to be able to use their rear vision mirrors to reverse their trucks with precision.
“In our discussions with the government, we were very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement on truck rear vision mirrors that will improve visibility and ensure that drivers can still use their mirrors as they were trained.”
Smith said there was still work to be done on truck width.
“There is a compelling case for increasing the width of trucks and trailers to the US 2.6m standard, which would make the market even more competitive and deliver more safety and productivity gains.
“As the next step, the government should increase the width of trailers to 2.55m, and allow trucks and trailers with flat sides, like refrigerated trucks, to be 2.6m wide.
“A 2.55m truck with curtain-side devices has a 2.6m envelope. Allowing 2.6m flat-sided trucks and trailers would reduce the energy needed to refrigerate freight, because the side insulation could be 90mm rather than 40mm thick,” he said.