An executive order to deactivate the emission control systems on commercial vehicles to mitigate against the oncoming shortages of diesel exhaust fluid have been resoundingly rejected by the Truck Industry Council (TIC).
In a statement issued late Friday, the TIC made it clear that modern trucks were, as part of law in Australia, required to meet Australian Design Rule (ADR) criteria.
“It is illegal to turn off the emission system of a truck,” said Mark Hammond, TIC Chief Technical Engineer.
“Tampering with such a system should be condemned by all within the industry,” he said.
The Federal Government has taken preliminary steps to address the shortages with a task force it convened last week after it was revealed the industry was on the verge of a crisis following China’s decision in October to restrict international exports of urea, a white crystalline solid widely used in diesel exhaust fluid as well as fertiliser and animal feed additives.
As dwindling supplies of AdBlue threatened to ground thousands of trucks that rely on it, industry and government were bracing for wide ranging impacts on agriculture resources and supermarket supplies.
Operators in some quarters to have called for the emission control systems on newer commercial vehicles to be temporarily deactivated as a work around to ensure vital supply chains are kept moving in anticipation of supplies being exhausted as early as February.
An industry roundtable was convened 8 December to discuss the issue.
During the meeting stakeholders were reassured that AdBlue supplies were held in sufficient stock across the country to match demand, provided unnecessary panic buying does not take place.
The biggest threat to the industry according to TIC CEO Tony McMullan was likely to come from the hoarding of supplies.
“A clear message to come from the roundtable was a call for calm within the industry,” he said.
“Attempts to secure long term supply and production, beyond the current stocks available, were well in hand by DEF/AdBlue suppliers, also, it is noted that increased support has been offered by the Federal Government in sourcing from new markets across the world,” he said.
At present the country had just over 15 million litres of AdBlue available to it.
According to current levels of consumption it was equivalent to around five weeks worth.
With an additional two weeks of supply on the way, it was anticipated that supplies would, with these resources, last up until February before the situation rapidly deteriorated.
“The real risk is, and has always been, the potential for operators to start hoarding DEF/AdBlue, which ultimately could result in an unnecessary shortfall in supply,” said McMullan.
Diesel exhaust fluid, for those looking to hoard it, has a relatively short shelf life, especially in summer according to Hammond.
“Hoarding DEF/AdBlue will be counterproductive for operators,” he said.
“DEF/AdBlue should not be stockpiled. It has a shelf life of approximately one year if stored under the right conditions, however, in hot summer months, its shelf life is more than halved.”
Stockpiling AdBlue beyond standard business use requirements, what’s more, could lead to it spoiling and becoming unusable, meaning financial losses for operators.
The current commentary around DEF/AdBlue highlights a significant issue that the TIC has raised with the Australian Government for over a decade.
“There is a clear need for DEF/AdBlue to be regulated for quality and supply,” said Hammond.
“The situation we are currently exposed to highlights how vital this regulatory action is,” he continued.
“TIC is again calling upon the Federal Government to ensure this critical substance is controlled by Australian law.
“It’s a shame we have to be at this point for government to realise the importance of DEF/AdBlue on Australia’s supply chain and the need for its regulation.”
But in regards to deactivating emission control systems used on many diesel vehicles manufactured after 2010 as a short term solution to keeping essential supplies running, Hammond would not budge.
“These vehicle emission regulations are in place to protect the health of all Australians,” he said.
“Untreated exhaust emissions can cause breathing problems, including asthma, headaches, eye irritation, loss of appetite, corroded teeth, chronically reduced lung function and cancer.”