Government must consider the future of Australian automotive manufacturing
The heavy vehicle industry is divided over Austroads recommendations to increase the maximum allowable heavy freight vehicle width from 2500 mm to 2550 mm (including attachments).
Austroads, the peak organisation of Australasian road transport and traffic agencies, was tasked by the Federal Government to look at the productivity and safety implications of expanding heavy vehicle width.
HVIA National Policy and Government Relations Manager Greg Forbes says there is a significant divergence of views on changes to vehicle width within the heavy vehicle industry.
“Truck manufacturers generally favour the proposed change as it would reduce barriers of entry for internationally designed or manufactured trucks,” Mr Forbes said.
“Truck manufacturers also highlight the increased ability to fit safety features and to transition to Euro 6 engine emissions standards if width was to increase.”
Mr Forbes explained that the costs of transitioning would affect more than just the manufacturing side of the industry.
“Most component suppliers have global operations that cater for the North American and European markets so will be able to adapt to the change, however their inventory costs are likely to rise while they are forced to stock both 2.5m and 2.55m wide components for the foreseeable future,” he said.
HVIA has worked with its members to develop a policy paper on the vehicle width issue which notes the complexity of the issue and diversity of views in how the changes could affect each sector.
“Australian trailer manufacturers have a variety of views depending on which segment of the market they operate in,” Mr Forbes said.
“The productivity and safety benefits are likely to be low for most segments of the trailer industry, whereas the additional international competition from low-wage and low-cost countries, places the Australian manufacturing industry at a disadvantage.”
Mr Forbes said the health of domestic heavy vehicle manufacturing industry is vital to Australia’s economy.
“Unlike the car industry, the heavy vehicle industry in Australia has survived without subsidies from the taxpayer,” he said.
“Any changes which would adversely impact this industry need careful analysis and it is important that Government proceeds with caution.”
HVIA suggests that if any change is made to trailer widths, manufacturers may need a targeted assistance package to defray the costs of the transition.
“HVIA would seek an undertaking from Government that no Australian manufacturer would be disadvantaged, and that sufficient transitional and retooling funding would be put in place to guarantee this,” Mr Forbes said.
“The timing of the changes and the details of the transition arrangement are critical.”
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