In a move that has shocked some, Mercedes-Benz Bus has announced it is pausing sales of new bus and coach products in the Australian market for the foreseeable future.
The move has come as a surprise to some but for other industry watchers, Australia’s antiquated and almost unique vehicle width rules, which successive governments have prevaricated over changing, are believed to have had a major influence on the decision by Mercedes to pause its bus operations here.
Mercedes-Benz Bus in its statement said it had decided to pause sales because planned future products were not ‘the best fit for Australian operators’.
Daimler would neither confirm not deny that the width rules had a significant influence on the decision, but for a country like Australia that has relatively low sales volumes for buses on a global basis, the cost and difficulty in altering the design, as well as building and homologating buses specifically for this market, makes the company’s stunning Citaro line of buses a much more difficult commercial proposition in Australia.
The company said it will continue to support existing bus and coach products in the market with parts and technical support and that the Mercedes-Benz Bus dealership network will also continue to provide servicing support for customers.
“Mercedes-Benz Bus prides itself on delivering best-in-class products that meet the very specific requirements of our market. With no such products available in the near future, we had no choice but to pause local sales,” said the company.
T&B News knows of several examples of trucks and buses, of which Mercedes-Benz’ acclaimed and advanced Citaro bus is but one of them, that have been put on the backburner by manufacturers planning on bringing them to Australia because of the misalignment of our standards.
The width of buses and trucks in Australia has stayed stuck in the past, despite numerous recommendations over more than 31 years, meaning our rules still do not line up with European standards as well as those in the US. This is despite a number of Austroads recommendations and statements dating back to 1992, agreeing with the idea of reforming the width regulations,
The Australian Trucking Association, said in a September 2019 broadside after an other Austroads statement signalling a possible change in width rules, that it was ‘bemused and concerned’ that Austroads had announced that it had completed a study into vehicle width and recommended increasing widths to 2.55 metres, but did not actually release the full findings of the study. The ATA back then also reminded the industry that Austroads made the same recommendation in 1992 but that it has still not resulted in any change . Two years on from that in 2021
Austroads, is the research organisation owned by the Commonwealth and state transport departments, and while not revealing the full findings of the study in 2019, it did reveal that it also recommended that ‘2.6 metre wide buses and trucks should be considered in the future’.
Exactly 12 months ago in mid February 2022 a meeting of the nation’s infrastructure and transport ministers regarding the review and development of the Heavy Vehicle National Law indicated that the rules would soon be reformed,. A year on from that still nothing has happened
Industry associations like the ATA have been agitating for at least the past five years and has often slammed the NTC for its lack of action, in fact delivering a pointed criticism of the NTC in late 2021 and early 2022, saying it was far from happy with the progress the NTC has been making with its review which began in 2018.
The announcement last February, that infrastructure and transport ministers from around the country held a productive discussion about the review and that they were emphasising the importance of close engagement with industry, earned some endorsement from the ATA, but again still no firm action!
At some point the lunacy of these delays in aligning Australia’s insular rules with international standards will have to end, particularly with zero emission on the horizon, and we will be able to move on into a new era with a global truck and bus standard.