pollution from australia’s dirty trucks is killing people, and should be banned from major cities

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Exhaust-pipe pollutants from trucks are believed to kill over 400 Australians each year and contribute to an array of serious diseases and conditions including pneumonia, lung cancer, and heart disease.

And, according to a new report from The Grattan Institute, the Grattan truck plan: practical policies for cleaner freight, should be banned from major cities.

The report urges state governments in Victoria and New South Wales to follow examples from London, Tokyo, Beijing, Barcelona, and Madrid, and implement designated “low emissions zones“, which would ban highly polluting vehicles from some urban areas.

The report proposes a ban on diesel trucks circulated before 2003 in Melbourne and Sydney from 2025. Older trucks pollute up to 60 times more particulate matter than those sold after 2011 – and up to 14 per cent of Australia’s fleet is comprised of pre-1996 trucks.

Ban pre-2003 diesel trucks to safeguard human health

As a whole, trucks are responsible for more than 20 per cent of the total urban nitrogen oxide load and emit 15 per cent of fine particulate matter emissions in urban areas.

Particulate matter from vehicles is especially concerning as it includes microscopic droplets and particles small enough to be inhaled by people, and can infiltrate surrounding environments.

‘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,’ says report lead author and Grattan Institute Transport and Cities Program Director Marion Terrill.

‘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,’ Ms Terrill says.

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

Current pollution standards jeopardise human health

The report also says that Australia must “catch up” to international pollution standards, which are at least a decade behind major global markets.

New trucks entering Australia “aren’t as clean as they should be,” and the country is still operating on truck pollution standards implemented in 2011.

For comparison, the Grattan Institute says that Canada, the United States, Japan, the UK and Europe all upgraded their regulations to an international standard between 2010 and 2014.

This means Australia joins Russia, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Indonesia and South Africa as the only G20 countries which have failed to avoided implementing pollution standards which would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent, and halve particulate matter.

Appetite for clean transport is growing says new poll

The push to clean up Australia’s wider transport sector goes is gathering pace as a new poll released by the Climate Council shows that many Australians want a transport system which is better for the climate.

The poll revealed that up to 70 per cent of Australians want to see an electrified bus fleet running totally on renewables, as soon as possible.

“Transport is Australia’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions and our country’s second biggest source of climate pollution,” says Amanda McKenzie, Climate Council CEO.

“A cleaner, more efficient and affordable transport system is what Australians want and it’s also crucial for our climate.”

Poll respondents in surveyed states (Queensland, NSW, Victoria, and South Australia) want a stronger focus on walkability and bike lanes in state transport budgets, and Climate Council Head of Advocacy, Dr Jennifer Rayner says such policies are more popular than governments realise.

“Australians know leaving the car at home can deliver cheaper commutes, healthier streets and reduced emissions for a cleaner environment. Now we need the investment to back up that choice so it’s easy and convenient for people to move around in cheaper, cleaner ways.”

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