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Truckies say AdBlue levels now ‘critical’

Bad timing: Some logistics companies report drivers are shopping around to find sufficient AdBlue to complete journeys, causing delivery delays.

Panic buying of AdBlue diesel exhaust fluid sees prices triple, stock rationed nationally

14 Dec 2021

THE recent announcement that a global shortage of diesel exhaust fluid – commonly known by its trade name AdBlue – could affect the Australian transportation industry is already taking hold, with service stations around the country reporting that panic buying has resulted in low stock of the additive necessary to the operation of many modern diesel engines.


Trucking fleet operators say they are experiencing three-fold increases in the price of AdBlue at some locations, while some outlets are choosing to ration the amount of the additive sold, severely impacting delivery schedules in the pre-Christmas rush.


“As a fleet operator for some of the country’s largest retailers, it’s obvious the supply of AdBlue is reaching a critical level,” Retail Transport Group director Rick Heywood told GoAuto.


“Not only have we witnessed the price of AdBlue triple in just more than a week, drivers are finding it harder and harder to locate AdBlue, and it’s wasting resources.”


Mr Heywood said drivers were often having to travel to multiple outlets to fill trucks with AdBlue, an exercise that was impacting delivery schedules and adding to the already rising cost of doing business.


“Add to that the issue that most outlets are rationing the quantity we can purchase – at some outlets we can’t even fill half a tank,” Mr Heywood explained.


“As an environmentally conscious operator our trucks run the latest emissions technology and require AdBlue to operate. Without it, we simply won’t be able to deliver goods to stores, which for us specifically means a lot of Christmas presents may not make it to the shelves.”


In a statement, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) called on the government to take immediate action to ensure the security of Australia’s AdBlue supply. 


It said a recent roundtable discussion with government officials was “disappointing” and that despite assurances made to the contrary, there was little evidence to support claims that supply of the additive was indeed secure.


“In the roundtable, we were told that there was no need to panic about the supply of AdBlue, but no-one was prepared to back this assurance up with any numbers about AdBlue supply,” said ATA chairperson David Smith.


“The supply of AdBlue is just as important as the supply of fuel. We need transparency about the stocks of material that are in Australia, and the ability of suppliers to deliver the AdBlue we need throughout the first half of 2022.”


Mr Smith said ATA members are reporting price increases and rationing in some locations, with others providing inferential evidence that just five to six weeks’ supply of AdBlue remains.


“The Australian Trucking Association has been told that the supply of AdBlue is uncertain beyond February 2022. Some suppliers are in a better position than others (but) we are already seeing suppliers restricting orders or raising prices,” he added.


“The ATA will continue to press the government for action and transparency until we are certain that we can continue delivering the groceries on every supermarket shelf and Australia’s exports to our ports,” Mr Smith concluded.


The Minister for Industry, Energy, and Emissions Reductions, Angus Taylor, said the supply of AdBlue would be bolstered by new shipments which are due to dock soon, but that these may only be sufficient to provide a further 10-14 days’ supply.


“We are quickly and actively working to ensure supply chains of both refined urea and AdBlue are secure so that industry can have certainty on their operations,” Mr Taylor said in a statement.


“I can assure Australians that the government is working to ensure we do not face any shortages. We are pursuing a range of measures to address global pressures in the urea market. We will keep our trucks running and Australian motorists on the road.”


Australian fuel suppliers told GoAuto that Australia is not alone in facing shortages of the vital fuel additive. BP Australia said it is monitoring AdBlue stock levels across the globe in a bid to reduce any potential impact to its customers.


“BP Australia is closely monitoring the global supply challenges associated with AdBlue. The situation is changing very rapidly and with little notice, and we are working closely with our suppliers and carefully monitoring stock levels to try and reduce any potential impact,” a BP Australia spokesperson said.


“We thank our customers for their patience and understanding in these challenging circumstances,” they added. 


AdBlue is composed primarily of refined urea, a colourless and odourless product that contains high levels of ammonia. It is combined with deionised water and injected into diesel exhaust systems to neutralise NOx matter before it enters the atmosphere. 


Urea is facing a global shortage as exporters including China restrict its sale to international markets. 


The valuable commodity is vital to the agriculture sector as the primary component in the production of fertiliser. It is also used to form resins critical to the production of many plastics, nitrate to manufacture explosives, and as the base ingredient of a wide range of beauty, pharmaceutical, and medical products.

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