Smaller trucks will save the world, Abbott says

Businesses should switch to smaller trucks to reduce greenhouse emissions, Opposition leader Tony Abbott says

By Jason Whittaker | December 7, 2009

Smaller trucks will help save the environment, Tony Abbott believes, in a gaffe that flies in the face of long-standing industry policy to grant access for more productive vehicles.

The new opposition leader suggests a move "from big trucks to smaller trucks" will be among the Liberal Party’s policy initiatives after rejecting the Government’s emissions trading scheme, despite research that shows larger vehicles can significantly cut greenhouse pollution.

"I think you do it by direct action and tree planting will help reduce emissions, more efficient buildings will help reduce emissions," Abbott said of the new climate change policy on radio 2GB last week.

"Businesses going from more to less polluting forms of energy, like from coal to gas, from big trucks to smaller trucks or at least to more efficient trucks, these are the sorts of things that we need to look at."

Today, Abbott's office was not backing away from the comments, with a spokesperson saying only the new policy will be announced before Parliament returns in February.

"Mr Abbott has said that we will have a clear, effective and economically responsible climate change policy," a spokesperson says when asked for detail on the Coalition's plans for the trucking industry.

The industry continues to push for wider road access for more productive vehicles like B-triples to improve efficiency of freight movement.

Bill McKinley from the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has reiterated the call for regulatory reform, "that will enable us to use longer trucks, such as B-doubles and B-triples, on more of the road network".

"This sort of regulatory reform is an ideal ‘no regrets’ measure: it would reduce the growth in the trucking industry’s greenhouse gas emissions and help us improve our productivity at the same time," he says.

Research from the National Transport Commission (NTC) highlights the impact of allowing bigger vehicles onto the road network: a linehaul operator with 60 B-doubles and semi-trailers could use B-triples to reduce the number of trips by one in four.

Total truck travel reduces by 3.7 million kilometres per year under the scenario, slashing fuel use by more than 2 million litres of diesel and saving 5,900 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent pollution.

Truck operating costs would also be reduced by 22 percent, the NTC says.

The ATA had previously backed the Government’s emissions trading legislation, concerned failure to pass the laws would result in more onerous state-based regulation on the trucking sector.

Abbott defeated Malcolm Turnbull for the Liberal Party leadership last week, with the Liberals voting down the emissions trading legislation in the Senate on December 2.

He has committed the Coalition to rejecting any form of carbon tax, suggesting business-based offset and reduction strategies will form the heart of the Opposition’s policy.

ATN has asked Abbott's office confirm the Coalition lleader's stance on freight vehicles and what the industry can expect from the policy but is yet to receive a response.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has rejected calls from Abbott for a debate on climate change policy, saying he won’t engage on the issues until the Liberals have an alternate policy.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, currently in Copenhagen for the pivotal global summit on emissions reduction, circulated Abbott’s comments, saying the Government "looks forward to the announcement of the full details of this new Liberal Party policy".

"The Government will be responding to this new Liberal Party policy in full once these details have been released," she says.

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