The trucking industry has warned of further blowouts in delivery times and shortages of goods by early next year, if government efforts to address shortages of a key chemical used in diesel lorries are not successful.
The federal government has formed a taskforce in response to worsening shortages of a fuel additive called AdBlue, which is used in diesel vehicles, including many trucks, to lower their emissions.
In recent weeks, operators have been struggling to get their hands on AdBlue, after China stopped exporting the compound urea, a key ingredient in the product. The shortages have led to panic buying and sparked fears some trucks may need to be pulled off the road.
On Friday, Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor called for calm and said it was “unnecessary and unhelpful” for people to hoard the additive. Earlier this week he said Australia had enough supplies to meet five weeks of “business as usual” demand, and there were also shipments of urea on their way that could produce a further two weeks supply of the additive.
“There is enough AdBlue in the country to get around. We can make sure that we keep trucks on the road,” Mr Taylor told radio station 6PR.
However, trucking operators and industry groups said many businesses were struggling to secure supplies of the additive.
Ben Nix, the chief financial officer of SRH Milk Haulage, which operates more than 60 trucks, said the company had secured supplies of the additive in Victoria and Western Australia. But in NSW, it was picking the product up at service stations, rather than having it supplied to the depot.
“They’re still getting it at the moment, but the problem is you’re not sure for how long – and a truck won’t start if you don’t get it,” Mr Nix said.
“It’s a bit like the toilet paper issue we had when COVID started.”
Victorian Transport Association CEO Peter Anderson
Rose Smith, an owner of Winston Express Haulage, which operates about 50 trucks, said its previous supplier of AdBlue had been unable to meet demand, so it was talking to other suppliers, and facing steep price increases and uncertainty. “Within one week or two weeks maximum, if we can’t get the supply, and we can’t get it from the service station, the vehicles cannot run,” Ms Smith said.
Victorian Transport Association CEO Peter Anderson said retail prices of the additive had surged four-fold, and the shortages had led to panic buying in some instances.
“It’s a bit like the toilet paper issue we had when COVID started,” Mr Anderson said. “If this continues, by mid-January we will start to see goods not turning up. By mid- February will see huge shortages.”
Fuel retailers, Ampol and BP, have both acknowledged the supply risks and said they were working with suppliers to respond to the situation.
Despite the government’s reassurances, chief executive of Freight NSW, Simon O’Hara said operators were calling him to say they were struggling to find AdBlue.
“There might be some operators who have no problems, but I’ve got operators texting me, calling and saying: ‘What are we going to do?’” Mr O’Hara said.
Extracted from The Sydney Morning Herald