The report, this week, from the National Commission of Audit has received plenty of air play this week in the news, but a significant aspect of the report for the road transport industry went largely unreported. This saw the subject of mass/distance/location again being raised and recommended by the Commission.
Every time a government agency, commission or working party looks into road charging the idea of charging trucks for the actual roads they use at a specified weight is brought into play. Bureaucrats in this space have been hearing the same message over and over, they are not going to let go of this idea, especially as the development of electronics has made it increasingly economically viable.
At the same time, the current road charging regime is irrevocably broken, and has been for some time. The trucking industry has been clinging onto the series of charging determinations since 2000, hoping against hope we can keep the diesel fuel tax credits. This was the saviour of the trucking industry in the past but has been under constant attack, from all sides, in recent years.
The charging regime was inherently unfair to many in the industry, as can be evidenced by the indignation expressed every time a new charging level was set. The changes tried to pull the economic levers to improve the situation of the trucking industry but often punished the industry. The over charging on lead trailers being the prime example.
It is probably about time trucking threw up our hands and admitted there is going to be some form of mass/distance/location charging in our future, with some form of black box in every cabin recording how much we owe the government, dobbing us in for working. If we get onboard early we will probably be able to materially effect the outcome and get the best possible result to reward and improve productivity.
Standing outside the process and complaining about it is unlikely to win any friends and gives state bureaucrats open slather on getting their infrastructure funding concerns considered over the needs of the road freight industry.
We could also aim for a pragmatic approach to the recording of movements. It is important to avoid the single expensive black box being mandated onto our trucks. There is an alternative, with a standard of record keeping and reporting being required which operators can meet with the equipment of their choice. Probably using existing tracking equipment.
There is little point trying to stop the inevitable. Maybe we should make the best we can of a bad job, and be done with it.