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Prime Mover Magazine

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Phil Taylor

Lies, damned lies and statistics

October 2016

Many commentators look at the collective new truck sales data published each month and claim all is well within the industry with year-on-year growth in sales. However, those who are regular readers of this column will know that I typically paint a different picture. This month I thought that I would share with you the Truck Industry Council’s (TIC) concerns and will do so by referring to the following graph.

The graph shows new truck sales above 4.5t GVM in the blue columns (TIC T-Mark data), verses the average age of Australia’s truck fleet, the red line (Australia Bureau of Statistics, ABS data), also above 4.5t GVM. I have purposely excluded trucks and vans from 3.5t to 4.5t GVM, as sales in these segments have boomed in recent years, skewing the heavy vehicle sales statistics. In fact the buoyant sales in this Car Driver’s Licence (CDL) segment has seen the average age of this portion of the heavy vehicle fleet fall to just 11 years, only about one and a half years older than Australia’s passenger vehicle fleet age.

The graph clearly shows that pre-Global Financial Crisis (GFC) truck sales were strong (2002 to 2007) and during that same period the average age of the truck fleet fell from 15.5 years to 14.4 years. Then we hit the GFC, end of 2007 into 2008 and new truck sales from 2009 crashed. From 2009 to 2011 sales were poor largely due to uncertain economic times. Over this three-year period the average fleet age grew to 14.7 years. Quite simply, the freight task continued to grow, but goods were being delivered using an aging truck fleet. In 2012 sales bounced back somewhat, nothing like the pre-GFC numbers, but a promising result and in that year the fleet age fell slightly.

That brings us to the past four years, 2012 to the end of 2015, where we have seen year-on-year falls in new truck sales and the corresponding rise in Australia’s truck fleet age. When the 2015 end of year fleet age was recently released by the ABS, TIC was not surprised to see the fleet age at a nine year high of 14.8 years and showing no sign of abating.

Our truck fleet age of almost 15 years is twice that of most Western countries that Australia would like to compare ourselves with. It also implies that safety, environmental and productivity improvements found in today’s new trucks are not being realised across the majority of our truck park. Governments please take note, this is not a positive outcome for Australia’s economic wellbeing, the environment or safety outcomes for all road users.

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