Green group and industry at loggerheads over B-triples

By: Jason Whittaker

An environmental group responsible for a new report into freight emissions refutes industry claims higher productivity vehicles will slash greenhouse

An environmental group responsible for a new report into freight emissions refutes industry claims higher productivity vehicles will slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking to ATN following the release of a report which found road freight emissions grew 40 percent between 1990 and 2006, Total Environment Centre (TEC) Executive Director Jeff Angel says B-triples are not an effective response to climate change.

He rejects the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) assertion governments need to open up their roads to B-triples.

ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn says the trucks may save an operator more than two million litres of diesel a year because they carry more freight per load than conventional combinations.

But Angel questions whether larger trucks will actually use less fuel, claiming the ATA’s proposition has nothing to do with emissions trading and as such cannot be judged on the basis. He says B-triples are an entirely separate issue.

"It’s not an emissions abatement strategy. It’s not something you can judge on the issue of greenhouse emissions and therefore the decisions about such vehicles have to be made on road safety and road damage," he says.

But Angel adds the trucks, because of their size, may cause more problems if they operate alongside road users.

"On heavily-trafficked highways other road users might have some safety challenges with them," he says.

The TEC’s report, released Monday, did not advocate B-triples as a means of reducing road freight emissions. It did, however, support operators maximising vehicle efficiency, such as matching the truck to the task, maintaining fleets and installing aero-dynamic features.

It also proposed optimal freight loading by urging operators to reduce empty running and to optimise freight loads.

The report also shows little has changed regarding road freight emissions despite arguments from ATA Chief Executive Stuart St Clair that new heavy vehicles use half the fuel they did 20 years ago,

According to the TEC, light commercial vehicles, rigid trucks and articulated trucks combined made up 87 percent of 2006 freight transport tailpipe emissions.

Furthermore, it predicts these emissions will grow by 100 percent on 1990 levels by 2020, which Martyn says is due to the fact the freight task will double in that time.

"It’s not because we are getting less fuel efficient," he says.

The TEC says the freight industry is not ready for a carbon constrained world because the growth in emissions is inconsistent with the need to reduce pollution levels.

Similar to other green groups, the TEC wants more freight on rail because the mode generates fewer emissions than road transport. But the organisation concedes trucks will still need to move freight in city centres.

But Angel, like Professor Ross Garnaut, rejects claims the industry needs to be compensated or given an incentive to move to higher productivity vehicles. He says doing so will create an unfair burden on those industries not compensated once emissions trading begins in 2010.

"The more you spread the load the less the economic penalty on all the affected sectors in the economy," Angel says.

He also took a swipe at arguments by energy-intensive industries that moving to a greener economy will have wide-ranging consequences.

"I think there is an enormous amount of deliberate manufacture of hysteria," he says.

"I just think it is politically inconceivable any government would send companies to the wall."

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