Electric vehicle, EV, New trucks, Opinion, Zero emissions

If we don’t act now, we’ll be left in the dust

I will never forget the moment I realised with crystal clarity that Australian trucking risks being left behind by the technological revolution that is zero emission heavy vehicles. 

I was at a panel discussion on hydrogen at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Las Vegas last month.

The crush of people determined to hear the latest about hydrogen technology literally took my breath way. 

There were thousands of people in that room. Every seat was taken and it was standing room only.

I was nearly crushed against the wall and there were people jostling for position outside the door. 

The speakers on the panel were all experts but that’s not what struck me. What really hit me was the hunger of the crowd to know more….and know it now. 

The urgency has been prompted by industry-transforming regulations introduced in the US and Europe.

These regulations have inspired a deluge of research and innovation that was honestly awe-inspiring to witness. 

The conference’s giant exhibition hall was full of companies working at speed to address the issues the Australian trucking industry knows all too well.  

Clearly range anxiety is top of mind. So too are issues like: charging infrastructure; charging time; up-front costs; vehicle weight and even the question of who will fix these vehicles if they break down on the road. 

What I saw was thousands of companies tackling these issues head on. 

For example, I spoke to companies that cover every area of the charging experience including: new superfast chargers that dramatically slash charging times; the software behind the charging infrastructure and even the company that designs the handles on the chargers themselves. 

Kylie Johnson checks out the new zero emission models at the Daimler stand in Las Vegas. Image: Kylie Johnson

Is the technology perfect? No but it’s evolving at phenomenal speed. Companies both overseas and in Australia are throwing everything at it. OEMS like Volvo, Einride, Hyundai and Toyota are all rolling out zero emission heavy vehicles.

If you’re an Australian trucking operator waiting for a sign to look seriously at zero emission heavy vehicles, this is it.

The success of the recent TruckShowX conference in Australia, along with the work of industry organisations like NatRoad. the Australian Trucking Association and the Western Roads Federation, shows change is coming. 

The last thing the Australian trucking industry needs is the government to introduce legislation late in the game and force operators to scramble to move to the new technologies.  

Australia has already started the regulation process, initiating an industry consultation, called the Transport and Infrastructure Net Zero Consultation Roadmap. 

The Department of Infrastructure says the consultation will “inform the development of the final Transport and Infrastructure Net Zero Roadmap and Action Plan. This plan will set out our actions to decarbonise transport and transport infrastructure.”

I’m not a trucking expert, but I have worked in communication and community engagement for 30-plus years. I can tell you this consultation is a sure sign government regulation is heading our way. 

We can’t stay in this cycle of confusion, refusing to accept the reality that has already hit the US and European operators. 

My concern is that if the Australian trucking industry waits any longer, we’ll be swamped by the tidal wave that’s coming. 

There’s no point pretending zero emission trucking will be all sunshine and rainbows. 

I saw US organisations talk about the challenges and frustrations of introducing the new technology but the bottom line is, they’re doing it. 

In Australia, we’re falling behind and the future is coming at us a million miles an hour. 

The Australian trucking industry has never shied away from a challenge. We simply can’t afford to now. 

If we don’t act, we’ll be left in the dust. 

• Kylie Johnson is an Australian communications consultant at Bright Sparks Consulting, who is currently overseas on a Churchill Fellowship researching the communication challenges around zero emission heavy vehicles. 

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