Urgent regulatory changes needed to support zero-emissions heavy vehicles

Industry’s commitments are meaningless unless Government steps up

The heavy vehicle industry’s position on the regulatory changes needed to support next-generation Zero-Emissions Vehicles (ZEVs) is clear but needs urgent action by the Government and its policy and regulatory agencies.

“Current truck axle load limits are too low,” said Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) Chief Executive, Todd Hacking.

“If not addressed, they will completely strangle efforts to decarbonise the industry, preventing it from contributing to Australia’s mandated emissions reductions targets.”

It is a position that is unilaterally supported by industry associations, manufacturers, and all suppliers to the road freight transport industry.

In its submission on the draft National Electric Vehicle strategy in 2022, HVIA highlighted the need for a review of heavy vehicle steer axle mass limits.

“Allowing heavier electric and hydrogen trucks is vital in opening up access to new low and zero-emissions heavy vehicles,” HVIA’s National Policy and Government Relations Manager, Greg Forbes, said at the time. 

Speaking at the launch of Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry Week (AHVIW) this week, Volvo Group Australia President, Martin Merrick, provided crucial insights from the manufacturer’s perspective. 

“Volvo Trucks now have a full range of heavy-duty electric vehicles that we intend to launch in Australia this year, with a view to manufacturing these vehicles right here in Brisbane by 2027,” Mr Merrick said.

“However – let me be clear – these targets will not be met, unless we have all levels of government working together to change legislation that will allow these vehicles to operate here in Australia”.

Mr Merrick explained that the lack of political decisiveness on the issue is hindering investment decisions, and needlessly shackling Australia’s economy.

“The stakes are too high to ignore this issue any longer,” he said.

“I call on all levels of government to create a taskforce to deal with this issue as a matter of urgency.

“This is not a Volvo problem; this is a zero-emissions future problem; this is an industry-wide problem.”

Last week, HVIA’s Chief Technical Officer, Adam Ritzinger, detailed the technical need for steer axle mass limits review and proposed four practical actions that can be implemented by regulators right now.

“We are on a path to becoming the highest emitting industry in Australia if nothing is done,” he said.

He called on road managers to urgently classify roads based on their current structural capacity, leading to the development of networks that can support the heavier axles of zero-emissions trucks.

“Australia has been ‘sweating the road asset’ for many years to meet productivity demands. It is time to refocus on the environmental demands and sweat the asset from that perspective.

“Australia has the capability and technology to resolve this problem and must urgently act to do so.”

Mr Hacking echoed Volvo’s position with insights gained directly from other HVIA members.

“The heavy vehicle industry wants to transition the fleet to zero emissions vehicles, and the technology is available right now,” he said.

“Australia has everything it needs to meet emissions reductions targets, creating more local jobs and investment in the process.

“The only missing piece is the regulatory framework to support us.  

“HVIA urgently calls on government at all levels to accelerate truck axle mass regulatory reform,” Mr Hacking added.

“The ongoing contribution of the industry to Australia’s economy and emissions reduction targets is at stake.”

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