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Trucking Crisis in Australia: AdBlue Chemical Shortage Strands Diesel Trucks

A shortage of AdBlue is pushing prices up, and bringing the diesel trucking industry to a halt.

There’s a shortage of urea, a chemical used in the making of AdBlue, which is used to make diesel “safer” or more “anti-polluting.” ABC News Australia reported that this trucking crisis could pretty much make the diesel trucking industry of Australia come to a halt, which would be devastating for the economy.

The article noted that diesel trucks and those driving them are pretty much the lifeblood of Australia, since everything bought there spends a lot of time on the road. The transport industry is warning of a possible trucking crisis that could affect Australia’s diesel industry– indeed, many industries around the world!

The National Road Transport Association’s Warren Clark told ABC that most of the chemical in AdBlue is imported from China to help cleanup diesel truck emissions, but the supply there has dried up.

“In most of the modern diesels, there’s a chemical added to the system called AdBlue.

“A lot of the AdBlue, or the chemical that goes into making it, is imported from China.

“The supply of that chemical urea has dried up from China. And hence, there’s now a massive shortage of AdBlue in this country.”

The diesel and transport industry isn’t the only one affected by this shortage. Urea is also used to make fertilizer for agriculture. Clark noted that there were several reasons why the supply from China had dried up. Reasons such as the cost going up and other trade issues were mentioned.

“We’ve heard things like the cost of fertilizer in China has internally gone up dramatically, and a large portion of that is urea.

“So what they’ve said is that they do not want to export any urea to try and keep the price of local fertilizer down.

“It may be that there’s some sort of trade issue that they’ve got with other countries around the world.

“It’s not just Australia that’s being impacted by this, you know, the whole world is going to be impacted by the lack of this AdBlue chemical.”

Clark thinks that, for now, there’s enough supply of urea until around February 2022. However, he noted that one member who has 250 prime movers who buy their fuel in bulk pointed out that they will be running out of AdBlue by next week. If this isn’t solved, Clark stressed, trucks would stop running.

“So you’ve not got anything getting delivered to supermarkets, you’ve got power not being generated.

“In South Australia, you’ve got tractors that can’t harvest, you’ve got hospitals that don’t have backup generators, all this sort of thing.

“So it’s a major problem if it doesn’t get solved.”

Clark told ABC that he was in talks with the office of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and that the government needs to act fast.

“This is a national supply chain issue and what needs to happen here is bigger than industry, this is a government issue.

“And we need to work with the government to try and find additional supplies of the chemical or different countries that we can import it from or get it from, or we need to increase the manufacture of AdBlue in this country.”

ABC also interviewed David Smith, who owns a family trucking business in South Australia. Smith is also the chair of the Australian Trucking Association and he’s extremely worried.

“I’m very worried … there’s no doubt there is a chronic shortage of urea in this country.”

He noted that AdBlue isn’t used in all trucks — in the older trucks, specifically. However anything from the emissions standard Euro 4 and up, AdBlue is injected into the exhaust to eliminate nitrous oxide.

Unfortunately, Smith’s business has already started feeling the effects of the AdBlue trucking crisis. He said that some suppliers are already running very low and have been approaching other suppliers. It hasn’t had a direct link to trucks just yet, but the shortage is already being felt in Australia and he believes it’s only a matter of time until we see that.

“Some suppliers are actually running very low at the moment and approaching other suppliers — that hasn’t had a direct link to trucks just yet.

“But the shortage is here and it is only a matter of time. Unless we can source some extra urea to make the product, it is going to have a direct impact.

“So I’m very worried at the moment. Firstly, we can’t operate trucks without the AdBlue. Secondly, the price is going through the roof.

“Last week, it went up five cents a liter. This week, it’s gone up 10 cents a liter. So that reflects the shortage straightaway.”

The Alternative

Electric vehicles are highly important and need to be considered in this story. Companies such as BYD and others that specialize in large vehicles such as electric buses and electric trucks already have attractive options on the market. More are being added each year, and the coming decade will see a lot more of this industry open up to electrification.

Developing electric semi trucks is very important. It will be a good minute before Tesla Semis are on the roads in high volume. However, once we get there, it will be a relief in multiple ways. With EVs, you won’t have to worry about the lack of AdBlue to prevent nitrous oxide from going into the atmosphere and AdBlue shortages causing a sudden trucking crisis. That’s just one more thing to add to a long list of EV benefits.

Feature image by myshoun from Pixabay

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