Whether it’s about compliance or environmental responsibility, South African truck operators need to urgently examine their greatest source of CO2 emissions – fuel consumption, if they are to avoid huge costs as a result of the Governments planned implementation of carbon taxes.
So says Steven Sutherland, sales director for South Africa and Africa at MiX Telematics, following the recent RFA convention held in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Proper fuel management is known to reduce fuel consumption by 10%, which equates to massive reductions in costs and carbon emissions. In South Africa, the government’s implementation of carbon taxes will see businesses pay R120 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions on 40% of their direct emissions by 2015.
For a fleet that emits 18 500 tons of carbon per year – based on a business for example with 600 vehicles each carrying 33 tons per annum and each travelling 200 000 kilometres per annum – this means a cost of R885 000 per year.
“This places huge pressure on industries that are already struggling with high fuel costs and tight margins,” cautions Sutherland.
Not surprisingly, there is a keen focus towards the management of carbon emissions, identifying the gaps that exist in current carbon tax policies and understanding how best to optimise these within the fleet sector.
“Carbon offsetting plays a key role in the process of fleets becoming more proactive,” states Sutherland. “In fact, carbon offsetting is one of the carbon tax’s six key elements, encouraging companies to make up for the carbon emissions they are unable to reduce through effective fleet management.”
“No one is exempt from this process,” says Sutherland. “And forward-thinking fleet operators are right at the epicenter of the current dilemma. In fact, when you look at the current tools available to face this challenge, one could rather say that fleet operators are at the centre of the solution going forward.”
Fuel consumption and the resulting carbon emissions are highly affected by the way in which a vehicle is driven with factors such as excessive idling and over-speeding attributing to this.
“Luckily the trend of using available technology to manage this is on the rise,” says Sutherland although, he states, local fleet operators still tend to be reluctant to make the complete investment required to fully benefit.
“The good news is that doing the right thing, like installing a comprehensive fleet management solution, results in a win-win situation: the industry profits through a healthier bottom line and carbon emissions lessen, easing pressure on the environment.
He adds that companies must get serious about how they manage their fleets, which does not mean looking at the ‘cheapest’ monitoring mechanisms to cut costs.
“Long-term and significant cost savings can only be achieved with the right system in place and, importantly, with a fleet management system that is being fully optimised to properly manage fuel, improve driver behaviour, manage vehicle maintenance and enhance the utilisation of a fleet’s assets,” continues Sutherland.
Proper fuel management is known to reduce fuel consumption by 10%, which equates to massive reductions in costs and carbon emissions.
It is my opinion that any implementation of carbon taxes on the trucking industry in South Africa is totally unreasonable and a money-making racket until we have the correct quality fuel to accommodate ‘squeaky-clean’ Euro 5 or 6 engines which most truck manufacturers can bring in tomorrow. The Government did announce 2017 for ‘clean diesel’ as the target date but apparently this has now been extended to 2019. South Africa is currently operating on Euro 3 standards while Europe is already on Euro 6. These models can be brought into the country right away but it is no use bringing them in until ‘clean diesel’ is available on a national foot-print basis. Figures bandied around have put the cost at R40-billion to upgrade the refineries so as to make such fuel available but who is going to pay for this? That’s the quandry at the moment. Until this is sorted out, how can transporters be penalised for something over which they have no control? Tests on Euro 5 and even Euro 6 models have already been conducted by some manufacturers but until we have ‘clean diesel’ the models will not – and cannot – be introduced on a wide scale. FleetWatch has, in the past, stated that the best thing operators can do to reduce their emissions is to maintain their trucks to the highest standards and to train their drivers on economical driving. In this way, fuel consumption will be reduced with a resultant reduction in harmful emissions. Imposing a carbon tax on the industry is the wrong thing to do at this stage of the game. All it will serve to do is add more cost to a vital sector of the economy which, as Steven Sutherland correctly says, is “already struggling with high fuel costs and tight margins.” How about this for a plan? If the Government is really serious about the trucking industry’s role in environmental sustainability, do not look at penalising it on something over which it has no control. Rather let’s get the refineries upgraded and then give an incentive to operators to switch to Euro 5 and Euro 6 models as there will be a price premium on these models. That’s what they did in Germany. It sort of changes the game plan a bit doesn’t it?