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Call for road freight industry to take lead on sustainability

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Australians are sharply divided on the issue of road freight being environmentally friendly, new research for the National Road Transport Association reveals.

The NatRoad study, conducted by independent consultants StollzNow Research, probed an online panel of 1000 people aged 18 and above.

It finds that 6 in 10 Australians with an opinion on the issue either disagree (46 per cent) or strongly disagree (14 per cent) that road freight is environmentally friendly.

Forty percent say the opposite. This data excludes the 22 per cent that say they don’t know.

Most Australians (68 per cent) would make a trade-off to improve the environment such as waiting longer for goods, accepting less variety or paying more.

Metropolitan residents are more likely to accept trade-offs (71 per cent) than regional residents (62 per cent).

“This is important research that shows the road freight industry needs to take the lead and speak out about ways we are, or can be, sustainable,” said NatRoad chairman Scott Davidson.

“Road freight is not a high concern for the environment in the minds of most people, but that doesn’t mean there’s no issue for our industry.

“Shown a list of eight environmental concerns, road freight (20 per cent) was lowest, with the top four concerns pollution (73 per cent), food wastage (63 per cent), climate change (62 per cent) and landfill (55 per cent).

“We all know that our industry will embrace lower emissions if governments put the appropriate regulations, price signals and market priming mechanisms in place.

“What this shows is that as an industry, we should not be backwards in coming forwards to participate in sustainability discussions.”

The Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts recently liaised with NatRoad when preparing a brief for the incoming government on mandating Euro VI for all new trucks.

NatRoad members said the government should offer a rebate for purchasing a Euro VI truck linked to greater fuel tax credits (once they’re restored).

This rebate could be applied so as to offset the higher fuel costs for heavy vehicle operators linked to the increased weight for Euro VI technology.

NatRoad has also strongly recommended to government that the policy options around the introduction of mandated standards should be designed to maintain the productivity of vehicles and improve the incentives to heavy vehicle operators to use Euro VI vehicles, for example by increasing steer axle mass limits and increasing vehicle width and length for these models.

This would make Euro VI vehicles more competitive, compared to a Euro V or earlier trucks, rather than less competitive (given their generally reduced payload).

The applicability dates for mandating Euro VI have not yet been determined but will likely be part of an early decision of the new federal government.

The mass increase needed to offset the productivity impact of the proposed ADR is being looked at by the National Transport Commission.

“But we communicated to the department that it is essential that the mass increase come into force before a proposed Euro VI mandatory ADR is in force,” said NatRoad in a recent newsletter to members.

“All technical issues should be resolved as soon as possible, given the long lead time on delivery of new trucks. All government agencies should co-ordinate work on the technical issues associated with the introduction of any concessions, particularly a floating 500kg mass concession for steer and 1000kg for twin steer Euro VI compliant heavy vehicles.”

The current Australian heavy vehicle engine emission regulation adopts Euro V as the main standard, and permits the approved equivalent standards from Japan or the US to demonstrate compliance.

The Second Revision of the relevant Australian Design Rule (ADR) permits trucks to be certified to the more stringent Euro VI.

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