This week NatRoad has called for the creation of a Clean Transport Fund of $3.5 billion, which points the way towards an initiative which would see the government get the zero emissions ball rolling for road transport.
Everybody knows that the transition across to zero emission trucks is going to be expensive, but we genuinely have to make a serious start, as soon as possible, in order to meet the targets already set by the government over the next 10, 20 or 30 years.
So far there has been some funding, which has helped with the large order for a bunch of electric trucks for TeamGlobal Express. Although this is a good start, the trucking industry, which already runs on extremely tight margins is being asked to change from generic diesel trucks to the much more expensive zero emission trucks.
Very few road transport operations have a business model which could withstand the pressure created by a trebling of the capital cost of its vehicles. Okay, we could argue that once having made that capital investment, the chances are that, if the charging or refuelling infrastructure is good enough, then running costs should be lower.
However, charging and refuelling infrastructure in Australia at the moment hardly exists. The development of this infrastructure also needs an element of initial government subsidisation to give it a helping hand and in order to create the conditions under which road transport operators would feel comfortable in investing in the new equipment, which is zero carbon.
We are in one of those chicken and egg situations. When we get a few more zero emission trucks on the road, there will need to be more infrastructure developed to service it. On the other side of the coin, if there was more infrastructure on the road to refuel or charge zero carbon trucks, the road transport industry would invest in further capital equipment to make use of that recharging and refuelling infrastructure.
It has long been a tenet of Australian Governments of any colour to avoid intervening in a market, but any intervention which would take place, resulting from the development of this Clean Transport Fund proposed by NatRoad, would be an investment in developing the Australian economy and making it easier for the country, as a whole, to reach its zero carbon targets, which have already been set.
The other factor a Clean Transport Fund would demonstrate, would be buy-in from from the powers-that-be into something which most operators in the country would agree with, in principle, but do not feel they have the financial means to action in the near future.
Operators would find it difficult to transform their operations without some form of help, and an initiative which shows willing on the part of the government is always going to help people to make a change, which the government wants them to make.
It is important to get the zero emissions ball rolling. This is an opportunity to do it, and compared with some of the other capital expenditure our current government is talking about, this would be a relatively cheap option at $3.5 billion.