Australia Government shelves rules for stricter curfew on polluting trucks

19:52  12 january  2020
19:52  12 january  2020 Source:   theage.com.au

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New rules that would have extended curfews for older, more-polluting trucks in Melbourne's inner-west, making residential streets cleaner, quieter and safer, have been shelved.

The move is a major blow to unlikely bedfellows who pitched the Australian-first initiative two years ago: the state's truck lobby group, the Victorian Transport Association, and the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group, comprising residents campaigning to remove trucks from residential streets.

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The state government told the two organisations in a pre-Christmas meeting that it would not go ahead with the Smart Freight Initiative, which would have extended curfews for the dirtiest diesel-engine trucks on key residential streets surrounding the Port of Melbourne.

Under the proposed changes, trucks that were more than a decade old, and did not have a low-emission Euro 5 engine or better, would have faced longer curfews, starting at 6pm (instead of 8pm) and ending the following day at 8am (instead of 6am).

This would apply to the so-called Environment Freight Zone, which covers Francis Street, Somerville Road and Williamstown Road in Yarraville and Moore and Buckley streets in Footscray.

Meanwhile, the Euro 5 trucks, which are quieter, less polluting and have better braking capabilities than older vehicles, would have received an extra three hours a day on these roads.

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The program also sought to reduce speeds from 60km/h to 50km/h on the inner-western roads.

Victorian Transport Association chief executive Peter Anderson said he was disappointed the program wasn't going ahead despite all the time and resources the industry and community had dedicated to it.

The transport bureaucracy had been resistant to lowering speed limits, even when this was being called for by both the industry and local residents, he said.

"To me the biggest stumbling block isn't the government ... it's the ability to be able to be supported by the bureaucracy. They're the ones stopping this; it's not the ministers," he said.

In July, the Andrews government published a press release signalling that it would introduce the "tough new curfews", but a government spokeswoman would not confirm if these curfews were still going ahead.

"We’ve spent more than a year working with the community through the Smart Freight Initiative. As a result we’ve implemented initiatives on inner-west roads, including speed reductions, pedestrian safety improvements and measures to reduce truck noise," she said.

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Maribyrnong Truck Action Group secretary Martin Wurt said urgent action was needed to deal with the 8 million trucks driving through the Maribyrnong local government area each year.

"The Cleaner Freight Initiative was handed to the government on a silver platter by industry and the community," he said. "None of the government agencies could come up with plan of their own.

"This is the biggest opportunity we've had in 20 years to start moving forward with some real solutions and it's just been dropped. I don't think Roads Minister Jaala Pulford realises what a wasted opportunity this is."

After the West Gate Tunnel is built, 24/7 truck bans will be rolled out on Somerville Road, Francis Street, Buckley Street and Moore Street, as well as Blackshaws and Hudsons roads.

However, this is expected to trigger an influx of trucks on nearby Millers and Williamstown roads, with trucks on the latter road set to double to at least 3500 per day by 2031, government figures show.

The purpose of the Cleaner Freight Initiative was to help prepare the state’s transport operators for the new bans and start incentivising companies to modernise their fleet.

The trucking group viewed it as trial that could have been extended to other residential areas with heavy truck routes, such as Rosanna in Melbourne's north-east and Werribee and Point Cook in the west.

Australia has one of the oldest truck fleets in the world, with about half of the trucks driving through cities built before 199l, according to the Truck Industry Council.

Trucks manufactured before 1996 emit the same amount of air pollution in diesel exhaust emissions as 60 13-year-old trucks of a similar size and power engine, the council found.

Diesel exhaust emissions have been linked to heart and lung disease and respiratory problems.

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