Grattan Truck Report misses the easy wins and ignores key obstacles

The Grattan Institute’s new “Grattan Truck Plan” has made headlines this week with its controversial calls for city-wide bans on pre-2003 diesel engines, but misses out on easier opportunities to lower heavy vehicle emissions.

It is hardly unusual for “policy think-tanks” to make deliberately far-reaching statements to draw attention to their more fundamental findings, but this report misses out on some of the heavy vehicle industry’s simplest pathways to lowering emissions.

“That’s the frustration with reports like this getting a big burst in mainstream media,” said HVIA’s National Policy and Government Relations Manager Greg Forbes.

“While the report makes a reasonable number of sensible recommendations for reducing emissions from trucks, it ignores the most obvious mechanism for no regrets reductions in greenhouse emissions.

“There are two areas, in particular, that the report pays lip-service but nothing more:

“You can’t talk about mandating electric vehicles without first ensuring the system has grid capacity to support them.

“Secondly – the fastest way to reduce overall heavy vehicle emissions is by allowing high productivity combinations into more of the network.”

Binding Targets for Zero Emission Vehicles

Mr Forbes said the heavy vehicle industry fully supports policy efforts to update the aging fleet but says the report glosses over the obstacles to the uptake of new vehicles.

“If the infrastructure is in place and the business case works, operators have shown they are willing to buy these vehicles and manufacturers have also demonstrated a willingness to supply them.

“One of the least useful suggestions in the Grattan Truck Plan is the suggestion that putting binding sales targets on truck manufacturers is a useful mechanism for increasing the uptake of electric heavy vehicles,” Mr Forbes said.

“The heavy vehicle industry is putting enormous effort into developing and rolling out zero emission vehicles – just come along to the Brisbane Truck Show in 2023 if you want to see evidence of this.

“However, to set unrealistic and binding targets for the percentage of vehicles sold, without appropriate infrastructure available and viable business cases for these vehicles would be counterproductive.

“It will instead force the continued use of older vehicles in high tonne-per-kilometre tasks, rather than replacing them with more modern and fuel efficient vehicles.

PBS Combinations

“What we urgently need is to increase the proportion of PBS combinations in the fleet.”

The Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme enables Australian manufacturers to develop innovative high-productivity truck and trailer combinations, while setting benchmarks for safety and productivity.

“The most effective way to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, is to ensure that every vehicle has been specified for the task that it is doing, and in a way that maximises capacity and payload for whatever application the vehicle is performing,” Mr Forbes said.

“Increasing the proportion of the road freight task carried by PBS vehicles is the most obvious way of reducing emissions of all types but is barely referenced by the report.

“The report acknowledges that the vast majority of the tonne kilometres of freight is carried by articulated vehicles but seems oblivious to the benefits of PBS combinations over other articulated vehicles.

“The PBS Marketplace Report produced by the NTC demonstrates that PBS vehicle typically generate a productivity improvement of between 15 and 30% over their non-PBS counterparts.

“Because PBS vehicles carry more freight per vehicle, the proportion of freight to gross vehicle mass is higher, resulting in less vehicles for the same amount of freight. In turn that results in improvements in safety, road wear and emissions.

“Increasing the proportion of the freight task carried on PBS vehicles is, therefore, the most effective way of reducing emissions associated with the freight task.

“The best way of doing this is to improve the access rules to allow PBS vehicle to use a greater proportion of the road network.

“If PBS vehicles can get better access the productivity benefits will drive the uptake of these vehicles.”


Mr Forbes said the Grattan Truck Report’s recommendations for low rolling resistance tyres ignores another obvious mechanism for minimising particulate matter emissions from tyres.

“The Grattan Truck Plan devotes a considerable amount of attention to mechanisms to foster the uptake of low rolling resistance and wider tyres.

“Some of our counter-recommendations are barely rocket science, but that doesn’t excuse reports like this for not advocating for the easy wins,” Mr Forbes said.

“While HVIA support both wider tyres and lower rolling resistance tyres, it is clear that better management of tyre inflation is the most effective mechanism for improving fuel efficiency, road pavement wear and particulate emissions through tyres.

“Properly inflated tyres might seem ridiculous for its simplicity, however the safety, productivity and environmental benefits of tyre pressure monitoring, or central tyre inflation systems needs to be far more greatly promoted.

“The failure to address these important issues undermines the usefulness of the report.”

Other Recommendations

Mr Forbes said the report’s recommendations on Euro VI and alignment with international dimension and mass standards are already being discussed by Governments and Industry.

“These are important issues and are currently being considered but the report glibly skips over some of the complexity of these issues.”

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