Composites: The lighter side of heavy transport

The Truck Industry Council report titled ‘Modernising the Australian Truck Fleet’ estimates the value of the Australian new truck market at around $4.5 billion.

Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director, Composites Australia Inc.

Australia is a vast country that depends heavily on a comprehensive transportation network to provide access to essential services and economic activities across its entire continent. Our country boasts an extensive road system of 877,651 kilometres (km) and 51,984 km of major roads, making the trucking sector a vital part of this infrastructure. This sector comprises a diverse array of trucks, including light rigid, heavy rigid and articulated vehicles, with a total count of 625,697 units (ABS – fin. yr 2020).

The use of road freight stands out as the primary method for moving urban, inter-urban and regional freight, playing a crucial role in the import supply chain. Even sectors like major mineral resources, which often use rail or coastal shipping for their output, rely on road freight for the transportation of machinery, capital equipment and other essential items to their sites.

According to the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE), road freight volume has seen an eightfold increase, from approximately 26 billion tonne kms in the 1970-71 period to about 223 billion tonne km by 2019-20. The dynamics of road freight are intimately linked with the domestic economic landscape. The Bureau forecasting model for national road freight connects future road use with anticipated growth in population, income per capita and freight costs. Projections suggest that Australia’s population will increase from about 26.6 million in 2024 to approximately 35.3 million by 2050, based on central forecast scenarios. With income per capita expected to rise by about 0.9% annually from 2020 to 2050, the total road freight volume is estimated to surge by roughly 77% during the same period, reaching about 393.7 billion tonne km by 2050. Although this growth rate is slower than in the past, it implies a significant increase in the need for trucks, drivers and road mileage throughout Australia’s road network.

In response to environmental concerns, the federal government is implementing stricter emissions standards, known as Euro 6, for new trucks and buses. These will be gradually introduced over a 12-month period starting from 1 November 2024.

The Truck Industry Council report titled ‘Modernising the Australian Truck Fleet’ provides an overview of the Australian truck industry, highlighting the involvement of nine truck manufacturers and distributors, which represent 16 different brands. According to the report, three production facilities located in Dandenong and Bayswater in Victoria, and Wacol in Queensland, are responsible for producing approximately 50 percent of all heavy-duty trucks sold in Australia. The report estimates the value of the Australian new truck market at around $4.5 billion. Additionally, it notes the average age of vehicles weighing above 4.5 tonnes GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) at 14.9 years, as per the ABS Motor Vehicle Census of January 2018.