Critical juncture for decarbonising the freight industry

In an era marked by growing climate consciousness and the increasing need for sustainability, the freight industry stands at a critical juncture.

With the pressing global challenge of climate change, the imperative for the decarbonisation of the freight industry is important to acknowledge.

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) strongly advocates for and supports the shift towards decarbonisation within our crucial sector, but we also recognise the shift will take time and require support from government.

The freight industry plays a pivotal role in the economic framework of Victoria, driving the movement of goods and services essential to both local and global markets.

However, this indispensable function has historically been associated with substantial environmental costs, chiefly in the form of carbon emissions. As the world increasingly recognises the adverse effects of greenhouse gases on our planet, the freight industry’s responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint becomes more paramount.

Decarbonisation of the freight industry not only aligns with the global environmental push towards lower emissions, but also offers multifaceted benefits to operators, businesses, consumers, and domestic and international economies.

Transitioning towards sustainable, low-emission transportation methods and technologies presents a range of advantages that are not limited to environmental preservation.

These and other issues were discussed at length at the VTA’s second Alternative Fuel Summit last month, and again the following week at a Victorian Government forum on decarbonisation. These events provided a forum for freight operators and customers coming together to strive for consensus on manageable paths towards decarbonisation, recognising that the path won’t be the same for everyone.

One of the significant advantages of decarbonisation lies in the potential for cost savings. While initial investments in eco-friendly technology might seem daunting, the long-term savings are substantial.

Enhanced fuel efficiency, streamlined logistics, and reduced maintenance costs of green vehicles contribute to significant operational savings for freight companies.

Moreover, as governments and consumers increasingly prioritise sustainable practices, companies embracing decarbonisation may gain a competitive edge, fostering brand loyalty and attracting eco-conscious customers.

And with emissions reductions an increasing requirement of Environmental, Sustainability, and Governance reporting (ESG), it is freight customers that are increasingly requiring evidence of decarbonising from operators as a condition for their business.

This shift towards cleaner technologies in the freight industry also presents opportunities for innovation and economic growth.

Research and development in green transportation systems foster new markets, job creation, and stimulate technological advancements. Supporting and incentivising the development of low-emission vehicles and infrastructure not only benefits the environment but also bolsters economic growth and promotes technological leadership.

And of course, reducing carbon emissions from freight transportation contributes significantly to improving air quality and public health. The potential adverse health effects of air pollution caused by freight emissions are generally well-documented.

Decarbonisation initiatives, such as transitioning to electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles, reduce harmful emissions, leading to cleaner air and better health outcomes for communities residing along transportation routes and in urban centres.

The VTA recognises that decarbonisation cannot be achieved in isolation and can only be attained in partnership with customers, consumers, and regulators.

Collaborative efforts among industry stakeholders, policymakers, and technology innovators are essential. Governments need to provide policy frameworks and incentives that encourage and support the adoption of low-carbon technologies. This can involve tax incentives, subsidies, and regulatory measures that encourage the deployment of cleaner transportation methods.

The industry must also invest in research and development to continuously innovate and improve existing technologies, making them more efficient, accessible, and cost-effective.

Public-private partnerships, knowledge sharing, and collaborative research initiatives can play a significant role in accelerating the transition to a greener freight industry.

Decarbonisation of the freight industry is not just a growing community imperative but an economic and social necessity. The benefits extend far beyond environmental stewardship, with cost savings, innovation, improved public health, and economic growth among the numerous advantages that beckon us towards a sustainable future.

It’s an ambitious and long-term goal that may seem unreachable for some, however through VTA and industry advocacy, we will ensure the transition is manageable, sensible, and affordable.

  • Peter Anderson is the CEO of the Victorian Transport Association.

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