I recognise and welcome the valuable work that road haulage and transport operators have undertaken in the area of decarbonisation to date. I have been particularly encouraged by how well road haulage operators have streamlined operations and promoted working time, fleet and fuel efficiencies across the industry. Transport operators have shown a commitment to reducing emissions and have taken various initiatives including transitioning to low and zero-emission technologies. I recognise the value and vital importance of working with both sectors to support and accelerate the necessary decarbonisation of the sector.
To this end, my Department has engaged directly with members of the road haulage industry, including representative bodies. The establishment of the multi-stakeholder Low Emission Vehicle Taskforce in 2016 was an important initiative. The taskforce was jointly convened by the Department of Transport and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to consider the range of measures and options available to Government to accelerate the take-up of low carbon technologies in the road transport sector.
Following extensive stakeholder consultations, the Taskforce produced two reports, the second of which, published in November 2019, had a particular focus on the heavy duty vehicle sector. The Phase 2 report outlined a series of recommendations to Government to help accelerate the uptake of alternative fuels and technologies. Arising from the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Taskforce recommendations, a new reduced tolling incentive regime for alternatively fuelled Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDVs) was introduced in 2020, and a new purchase grant scheme, also for alternatively-fuelled HDVs, is expected to be launched early in 2021.
Building on the framework established by the LEV Taskforce, my Department has also worked to maintain engagement with road haulage representative bodies and operators, particularly the Freight Transport Association of Ireland (FTAI) and the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA). This has facilitated dialogue and the sharing of information between Government and industry on the challenges and opportunities associated with decarbonising the freight sector. Through site visits, and other contacts, my Department has developed a greater understanding of industry and operator-led decarbonisation issues and initiatives. These include the use of solar energy to power battery-electric goods-loading vehicles at a major Irish logistics centre; the use of CNG vehicle technologies and renewable biogas to reduce carbon emissions from waste and road transport; and the promotion of emission-reducing eco-driving techniques for Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDVs) by industry bodies.
Recognising the scale of the decarbonisation challenge facing the Irish haulage sector, my Department has also commissioned a number of studies to identify actions that haulage operators and companies can take to reduce carbon emissions. Involving the industry, academia and public bodies, these studies examine how best to maximize the emission reduction potential of the existing HDV fleet, and to identify the most viable decarbonisation options going forward, and also, in some cases, involve consultation with operators.
My Department has also co-funded, with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), a freight decarbonisation study, to better understand the policy and logistics contexts within which the Irish freight industry operates, and to identify the most efficient and effective decarbonising measures for the sector in the medium to long term. To date, and despite COVID-related disruption, the project has included a series of workshops that have drawn together industry members, academia, Government Departments and agencies. The overall aim of this engagement has been to identify and co-design effective and affordable interventions that will have a meaningful impact in real-world conditions. A final project report is being prepared and is to be published by the end of 2020.
In addition, the Programme for Government, “Our Shared Future”, includes a commitment to publish and implement a 10-year strategy for the haulage sector focused on improving efficiencies and standards and helping the sector move to a low-carbon future, and my Department is beginning to undertake this important work. It is envisaged that we will carry out a public consultation, and I look forward to working with the road transport sector.
Engagement with transport operators is of critical importance and the reduction of carbon emissions cannot be achieved without their buy-in and support. The National Transport Authority (NTA) is the lead agency for all matters of public transport and have been key promotors of the decarbonisation agenda. The NTA was a member of the steering committee for both phases of the LEV Taskforce. A clear roadmap has been developed for the transition to low and zero-emission vehicles of the public transport fleet. An alternative-fuels bus trial was undertaken, the results of which have informed the development of this roadmap. Recognising that all alternative fuel technologies must be explored, my Department, in conjuction with the NTA, has re-opened this trial to assess the viability of hydrogen as a fuel for our public sector fleet. My Department also has a monthly monitoring meeting with the NTA at which decarbonisation and alternative fuels is a standing item on the agenda.
Not only are our transport operators looking to reduce carbon emissions, they are committed to reducing all emissions and the NTA is a key member of the Urban Transport Air Pollution (UTRAP) Group looking at how air pollution, in particular nitrogen oxides and particulate matters, can be reduced in urban areas, where these pollutants are most detrimental to our health. Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), CIÉ and Dublin Bus also participate in the Group which is seeking to identify short, medium and longer-term solutions to the reduction of transport pollutants and which is considering various options including fuel efficiencies and appropriate technologies.