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Fears grow over AdBlue shortage impact on industry

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It was first flagged as a growing freight industry issue in a bulletin by Road Freight NSW CEO Simon O’Hara to his members in early November.

Today, the escalating crisis around the serious shortfall of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) in Australia is an urgent order of business in the office of Deputy PM and Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce.

In a note to Australian Trucking Association (ATA) members and councillors earlier this week, chief of staff Bill McKinley said he was due to meet with Joyce on Friday, December 3 to try and broker a solution.

He’s also hoping to meet with the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction and the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

McKinley said he will argue that the following approaches need to be adopted:

  1. Australia should ban urea exports,except on a government-to-government basis. We don’t let our friends and allies down when they need emergency help
  2. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) should provide support to Australian DEF suppliers in their efforts to source urea, including from China. One argument I have heard from within government is that DFAT’s job is to promote exports, not imports. In response, we should point out that many Australian exports involve truck movements and that a substantial proportion of those trucks require DEF to operate
  3. Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (DITRDC), NHVR and Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) should work with OEMs to determine if it is technically possible to remap truck engines to reduce their DEF consumption or, alternatively, to see if it is possible to vary the DEF standard to allow for a modest proportion of fertiliser grade urea to be used in its production. It should be emphasised that neither of these technical solutions looks prospective
  4. DITRDC and DISER should consider what a DEF rationing plan for Australia might need to look like – on the basis that it is better to have a plan that it is not required than to have to put one together overnight
  5. DITRDC, the NHVR and state road agencies should consider what emergency permits could be issued to allow for the increased use of high productivity vehicles if there is a critical DEF shortage.

O’Hara said the AdBlue crisis has the potential to cripple the industry and is already hurting operators in NSW who are feeling the brunt of price increases as supplies dwindle.

McKinley said he and the ATA’s chief engineer Bob Woodward have also been made aware of how the shortage is already impacting DEF suppliers and trucking businesses.

“The situation is expected to get much worse by February 2022,” added McKinley.

The ATA said China has almost halted urea exports as part of an attempt to cool down local fertiliser prices.

As a result, it is increasingly difficult to source urea (particularly DEF-grade urea) internationally.

The worst hit economy is currently South Korea, which has banned urea exports and rationed DEF purchases.

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