Herald Sun - Motoring - - Working Wheels -

AUSTRALIA’s truck fleet is among the old­est in the de­vel­oped world and it’s get­ting older. The 2014 Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Cen­sus from the Aus­tralian Bureau of Statis­tics shows we’re lag­ging be­hind many other west­ern na­tions when it comes to the age of our trucks.

New trucks have be­come in­creas­ingly cleaner and safer in the past two decades. The Truck In­dus­try Coun­cil claims that it would take 60 new heavy-duty trucks to pro­duce the same amount of ex­haust emis­sions as just one com­pa­ra­ble truck pro­duced be­fore 1996.

Ac­cord­ing to the ABS, the av­er­age age of ar­tic­u­lated trucks in Australia is now 11.4 years, up from 10.7 years in 2009.

Light trucks have an av­er­age age of 11.1 years (up from 10.9 in 2009), while rigids (heavy trucks with no trail­ers) are 15.6 years (up from 15.4 years).

How does that com­pare to other coun­tries? In the US, heavy trucks have an av­er­age life of 6.6 years, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment fig­ures from 2013.

It is a sim­i­lar story in much of Europe with the av­er­age stand­ing at 6.8 in Ger­many, 6.6 in Bri­tain and 9.5 in Italy. Poorer coun­tries tend not to col­lect or pro­vide such data.

The Euro­pean fig­ures are not per­fect, dat­ing back to 2010, and it is not clear which trucks each coun­try in­cludes.

The Truck In­dus­try Coun­cil has long been push­ing for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to en­cour­age own­ers to ditch their old trucks for new ones.

No sur­prise there, as the coun­cil rep­re­sents the man­u­fac­tur­ers of new trucks. In any case, they know how much safer and cleaner trucks have be­come in the past 20 years.

In tan­dem with the in­tro­duc­tion of new tech­nol­ogy such as anti-lock brakes, sta­bil­ity con­trol, lane de­par­ture warn­ing and auto emer­gency brak­ing, cab safety has been im­proved dramatically. Most mak­ers vol­un­tar­ily un­der­take an NCAPstyle cab crash test.

Then there are the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­prove­ments, with the big plumes of black smoke un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion a thing of the past. There have been huge strides in re­duc­ing the par­tic­u­lates and ox­ides of ni­tro­gen.

Australia’s emis­sion stan­dard for new trucks is lag­ging be­hind over­seas mar­kets. The cur­rent Euro6 stan­dard is not due to be en­forced here for an­other four or more years but Euro5 en­gines are still far cleaner than pre­de­ces­sors.

TIC chief Tony McMul­lan urges gov­ern­ment in­volve­ment and de­scribes the age of Australia’s truck fleet as “a pol­icy fail­ure”.

The coun­cil wants diesel fuel tax re­bates to be stripped from all pre-1996 trucks and redi­rected to a fund that helps cus­tomers buy new trucks.

Cur­rently, pre-1996 trucks are ex­cluded from claim­ing fuel tax re­bates, but are still able to do so if they ful­fil ad­di­tional re­quire­ments, which most do.

The Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion pushed for ac­cel­er­ated de­pre­ci­a­tion to dis­cour­age op­er­a­tors from hang­ing on to trucks and trail­ers too long for big tax breaks. It re­sists the idea of ap­proved pre1996 trucks los­ing re­bates.

“Older ve­hi­cles have an im­por­tant place on Australia’s roads, pro­vided they are main­tained cor­rectly,” says com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­viser Kath­leen Horne. “The ATA would not sup­port any scheme to forcibly re­tire th­ese ve­hi­cles. Their on­road use de­creases nat­u­rally as they are bought and sold.”

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