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Prime Mover Magazine

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Phil Taylor

Clearing the air – vehicle exhaust emissions

June 2016

In the past, on-road vehicle exhaust emission regulations were the sole domain of the federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) who formulate and administer the Australian Design Rules (ADR). However in their review of the topic, this time government is taking a “whole of government” approach, led by Minister Paul Fletcher and DIRD, but also involving Minister Greg Hunt and the Department of Environment and the Minister for Resources and Energy, Josh Frydenberg.

The review process to date has included two stakeholder workshops that have brought together key industry organisations (including TIC), state and federal government representatives and the three Ministers. The intent of the review is not simply to force a move to cleaner vehicle exhaust emission standards, but also to review the effect that such a move would have on Australia’s overall air quality and economic prosperity. It would also review what fuel standards would be required and how on-road enforcement should be conducted to ensure that vehicles continue to comply. The latter issue is driven somewhat by the Volkswagen emission defeat software that has been receiving much attention in recent times.

On the table this time around for heavy vehicles is Euro 6 and equivalent emission standards from Japan and the USA. Before you get nervous about another emission change for trucks I should clarify. Firstly, the process has just begun and it will take time for government to work through their processes and justification criteria, then there will be sufficient time given for the vehicle manufacturers to develop their new Australian models.

This process is likely to take four to five years, so a mandated move to Euro 6 and equivalent standards will be beyond 2020. Secondly, Euro 6 and equivalent engines have been the order of the day in Europe, Japan and the US for a few years now. In fact I am pleased to say that there are five TIC members who are currently offering Euro 6 or equivalent models in Australia, you may even have some Euro 6 trucks operating seamlessly in your company’s fleet. This technology is well tried and proven.

As TIC began to formulate our initial response to the Australian Government’s Vehicle Emission Discussion Paper, released in February this year, it became quite obvious that a move to Euro 6 and equivalent emission standard trucks would not have any significant positive short-term effect on our air quality, nor the health of the average Australian.

Let me explain the overall emission performance of the on-road vehicle park in Australia. All new heavy vehicles sold in Australia have been required to meet ADR80/03, Euro 5 and equivalents, since January 2011, however light vehicles, cars, SUVs, light vans etc are currently only required to meet Euro 4, while motorbikes have to meet no emission requirements.

Light vehicles make up the majority of new vehicle sales each year (over 97 per cent) and while new regulations will force new cars to adopt Euro 5 standards later this year, new trucks have been at this cleaner level of exhaust emission for the past five years. One has to ask why government has put the burden and increased cost of higher emission regulation on trucks and not cars in recent years.

TIC’s review of the emission performance of the Australian on-road truck park highlights a fundamental failing in the government’s adoption of subsequent vehicle emission standards. According to data available from the 2014 Australian Bureau of Statistics Motor Vehicle Census, over 48 per cent of trucks have no, or very basic (Euro 1) engine exhaust emission systems, 24.7 per cent comply with Euro 3 standards, 14.4 per cent to Euro 4 and just 12.5 per cent to Euro 5. The take-up of new trucks with superior emission technologies is not occurring. Truck operators appear to prefer to hold onto their older, not so clean trucks. Hence a move to Euro 6 will simply put a handful of super clean trucks on our roads while almost half of our on-road trucks remain with little or no emission regulation.

The government must seriously look at incentives, such as those outlined in TIC’s National Truck Plan, to aid the take up of new cleaner, safer and more productive trucks as part of their current holistic review of vehicle exhaust emission standards for Australia.

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