18 Jan 2017

Lack of participants puts truck fuel savings programme on hold

5:48 pm on 18 January 2017

A government programme which could reduce truck emissions by a third has been put on hold with not enough freight companies signing up.

Three people have lost their jobs because the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's (EECA) heavy vehicle fuel efficiency programme has stalled.

EECA said staff shortages meant trucking companies couldn't send drivers on the programme, but the Road Transport Forum said it was because it made them less competitive.

The heavy vehicle sector spends nearly $2 billion a year on fuel and accounts for about 15 percent of the country's energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

The programme works with a number of freight operators to support driver training, improved fleet management and the roll-out of efficient technologies like telematics.

Success is measured in overall fuel savings. So far four million litres of fuel has been saved, or about 11,000 tonnes of carbon, over the three years the programme has run.

The target was eight million litres, which EECA acting transport general manager Bill Branders said would equate to about a third of the sector's overall emissions.

But he said there were challenges to getting companies signed up.

"The sector is running on very low profit margins, there's staff shortages within the sector so it's very difficult at the moment to find the time for driver training."

Mr Branders said lower fuel prices were also acting as a disincentive for companies to get on board.

Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said she thought the programme was very good and there was a lot of interest from his members.

But he said reducing fuel usage - and therefore costs - made things difficult for the trucking companies.

Mr Shirley said EECA wanted to publicly demonstrate how fleets had reduced carbon emissions but this conflicted with the fiercely competitive trucking industry.

"Whenever they show that there's savings to be made they're immediately pressurised by customers and clients to reduce their freight rates."

Mr Shirley said he did see merit in the programme and was working with EECA to develop a new one.

In the meantime, the government agency will continue working with companies in the programme throughout the next six months.