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.”