“Don’t let those who say it can’t be done interrupt those who are already doing it.”

I think that saying definitely applies to the road transport industry, where operators have consistently demonstrated their ability to innovate and come up with new solutions over the years.

This week, I gave a talk at Fleet Day in Hamilton, about how technology can improve heavy road transport. We’ve heard a lot recently about the challenges facing our industry, and while I do not want to diminish them, I feel it is good to be optimistic and acknowledge some of the positive changes that are happening. These are also good for the industry as a whole and help present it in a good light to the wider public.

Here are four ways in which technology is making a positive difference.

Fuel technology

Diesel engines emit both CO2 (carbon dioxide) and NOx (nitric oxide) gases. However, modern lean-burning diesel engines are far more fuel-efficient than older models and diesel itself is cleaner than it used to be even a decade ago.

Industry is already demonstrating leadership and innovation by investing in new technologies. An example is Invercargill-based HWR, which has introduced dual-fuel hydrogen-diesel hybrid trucks to its fleet. The engines work by using clever fuel injection, so they can run on 30 to 50 per cent green hydrogen.

According to HWR, one dual-fuel truck running an average of 384km per day can eliminate 200kg of carbon emissions per day. If all New Zealand’s fleet were to transition to dual-fuel, millions of kilograms of carbon emissions would be eliminated each year. HWR chief executive Anthony Jones says the dual-fuel project will make a significant difference to the road transport industry.

Vehicle technology

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) are also known as ZEVs (Zero Emission Vehicles). They are already proving efficient, especially on shorter routes, for example in cities where smaller heavy vehicles are dominant. Long-haul larger electric trucks are under development but  still seem a way off. Their cost premium is a barrier but there are some exciting developments.

However, batteries result in increased vehicle weight and that is proving a barrier to adoption because the smaller trucks require class 2 driver licences rather than the car licence required for their diesel equivalent. Transporting New Zealand is seeking an interim blanket exemption and change to the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Rule.

There are also opportunities to increase productivity by increasing cubed and gross weight. Fewer, larger trucks on the road would also produce fewer emissions. Allowing increased axle weights and powered axle technology could also encourage take-up of more environmentally friendly vehicles, so a change really would make sense.

Vehicle safety

Unquestionably, all vehicles have become safer. New technology in the form of blind spot and lane departure warning sensors help prevent accidents.

Driver impairment is still a major risk factor, so better risk management of driver fatigue is another positive development. For a considerable period now in-cab cameras that monitor driver reactions have been available. Now there is technology that can assess driver cognitive performance and that, along with other countermeasures, is being trialled in the livestock sector.

Again, legislation has to keep pace with technology; therefore, we are seeking more flexibility in the Worktime and Logbook Rule, especially for the livestock sector to manage unexpected circumstances such as delays caused by weather, accidents, road closures, and ferry delays.

Software can also provide real benefits for freight efficiency and optimisation.

Improving financial literacy

Another old saying goes, “If the wheels are turning, you’re earning” – but are they turning as efficiently as possible? Business sustainability depends on being on top of your game when it comes to managing costs. Software programs make the process easier and make a real difference to your business’s bottom line.

An example is Transporting New Zealand’s new Cost Model Tool, which is available free to members. To find out more, please get in touch by emailing info@transporting.nz, or see our website, www.transporting.nz.

Technology continues to evolve and contribute to potential solutions to better manage our largest risks: climate, safety, and commercial sustainability. Despite our reputation as a “technology taker”, our industry is not waiting. A diverse range of applications, from engineering hardware to spreadsheets, is now available.

Our regulatory framework needs changing to provide more agility so we can more easily take advantage of technology. We appreciate your support as we advocate for such change.

Please note: The content of this Advisory has been issued to inform members of Transporting New Zealand. It is for road freight transport industry circulation, not for media publication. It can be forwarded in its entirety to members of Transporting New Zealand. It cannot be reproduced, or printed in parts, under any logo other than Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand’s logo, without written permission from Transporting New Zealand.