The Grattan truck plan: practical policies for cleaner freight

by Marion Terrill, Ingrid Burfurd, Lachlan Fox

28.08.2022 report


Old trucks should be banned from Sydney and Melbourne as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce Australians’ exposure to deadly air pollution.

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Exhaust-pipe pollutants from trucks kill more than 400 Australians every year and cause or contribute to diseases including lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, pneumonia, asthma, and type-2 diabetes.

The work that trucks do is crucial for our economy and way of life, but we must do more to limit the harm they cause to our health and environment.

Old trucks are much more polluting than new trucks. Fourteen per cent of the Australian fleet is pre-1996, and these trucks emit 60 times the particulate matter of a new truck, and eight times the poisonous nitrogen oxides.

To keep the most-polluting trucks away from most people, pre-2003 diesel trucks should be banned in Sydney and Melbourne from 2025.

Hundreds of cities around the world have imposed similar bans on dirty trucks, including London, Tokyo, Beijing, Barcelona, and Madrid.

But even the new trucks coming into Australia aren’t as clean as they should be. Our pollution standard for trucks is a decade behind major global markets. Australia should catch up to the international pollution standard from 2024.

And the federal government should rescind pointless regulations – such as the requirement that trucks in Australia be 2 per cent narrower than the global standard – which limit the range of less-polluting trucks available to buy here.

Trucks also contribute 4 per cent of Australia’s carbon emissions. To help Australia meet its target of net-zero emissions by 2050, the federal government should impose binding sales targets for zero-emissions trucks, starting at 2 per cent in 2024 and gradually increasing to cover most new sales by 2040.

In the meantime, the government should ensure new diesel trucks emit less carbon, by imposing standards on engines and tyres, and ratcheting up those standards each year.

Trucks make our lives better in so many ways: they deliver parcels to our door, groceries to the supermarket, tools to the hardware store, building equipment to our construction sites, and medical supplies to our hospitals.

But this report shows why and how Australia should do more to limit the damage they leave behind.