ATA releases A-trailer registration charges solution

One step forward, two steps back

In a recent edition of NatRoad’s weekly newsletter, NatRoad chief executive Bernie Belacic wrote an insightful article questioning the logic of current exorbitant registration fees foisted on truck operators for lead or ‘A’ trailers in B-double and B-triple configurations. Here’s what Bernie had to say.

‘There are some strong arguments for the suggestion that when it comes to workplace health and safety, safety comes first and cost comes a distant second. In fact, under the national model bill for Workplace Health and Safety ‘cost’ can only be taken into account should it be ‘grossly disproportionate to the risk’. Yet there is no consideration when it comes to truck charges encouraging more productive and safer vehicles on the road.

The reality is that running two B-doubles equates to removing three semi-trailers from the road, while running one B-triple equates to removing two semi-trailers from the road. What’s more, it’s a proven fact that B-doubles and B-triples are safer than equivalent sized conventional combinations such as roadtrains. This is not to say that B-doubles are the perfect or right choice for every situation, however for most of the last 20 years governments collectively have made the conscious decision to encourage the uptake of these vehicles. That is, up until the last charging determination whereupon B-double registration charges increased to over $15,000 and B-triples to over $21,000.

During a recent speech, chairman of the Productivity Commission Gary Banks said that in tackling Australia’s economic challenges at a micro-economic level, “…The imperative must be to drive productivity improvements and efficiency throughout the economy, through actions that can effectively foster competition, facilitate organisational flexibility and adaptability, and build capability. Whatever the economic question, ‘productivity’ is generally the answer.”

Over the last 20 years productivity has improved significantly in the trucking industry. Clearly the introduction of the B-double has made a large contribution to this over the same period. So why have government ministers now decided, ‘Let’s increase the registration charges so we can undo as much as possible of the progress made over the last 20 years’?

If, as Gary Banks says, productivity is the answer to our current challenges, then why are we encouraging the trucking industry to go backwards?

Recently I was invited by the chief executive of the National Transport Commission (NTC) to a meeting in Melbourne to discuss this exact issue. The NTC has heard the message loud and clear from industry – including directly from the NatRoad board at its meeting in May – that the registration charge increase that was agreed to by transport ministers in 2007 is having a significant impact on business decisions; particularly so with B-triples where without greater access arrangements the productivity benefits are marginal at best.

It seems the challenge is to convince state and commonwealth governments that the issue is real.

Given that Western Australia has not adopted the increase, it is clear the WA government understands the issue. Now we must convince the other governments that this is not only an issue, but one on which they must act quickly. The problem is governments generally do not move quickly unless forced to through public pressure.

Hard facts and figures will be required but getting this information is the hard part. Because states have been only collecting ‘A’ trailer registration information for a few years now, it is unlikely that registration numbers will be able to show any visible trends. Nevertheless, together with the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and its member organisations, NatRoad is talking to manufacturers and their representatives to obtain non commercial data on sales.

The feedback NatRoad receives from its members, while unfortunately not high in numbers, is anecdotally loud and clear. Putting real figures to this is now required, along with some strong lobbying of governments around the country.

While this is but one of many political hurdles, NatRoad and the ATA are pushing for a quick resolution.’

Meanwhile, …..

ATA releases A-trailer registration charges solution

The registration charge for a nine-axle B-double would fall from $15,708 to $10,602 under the ATA’s A-trailer registration charges solution, released today.

The ATA developed the solution to reverse the decline in the use of B-doubles that followed the massive increase in the registration charge on their lead or A-trailers.

The charge for a tri-axle A-trailer increased from $1,065 in 2007-08 to $6,525 in 2011-12. During the same period, the usage of A-trailers fell eight per cent; the number of A-trailers sold by manufacturers fell 44 per cent.

Under the ATA’s solution, the registration charge for a tri-axle A-trailer would fall to $2,283. Registration charges for other trailer types would increase slightly to compensate, with the registration charge for a tri-axle semitrailer increasing by $159 from $1,419 to $1,578.

In a letter to the National Transport Commission, ATA Chief Executive Stuart St Clair said the ATA was concerned about the reduction in the use of A-trailers and the resulting return to less safe practices.

“This has occurred following the dramatic increases in registration charges for A-trailers, in an attempt to follow the COAG guideline that there should be no subsidisation between different types of combinations,” Stuart said.

“While recognising COAG’s recent view of not cross subsidising between classes of vehicles, it is now clear the unintended consequence of this view is leading to a reduction in safety.

“The original purpose of lower charges for B-doubles was anticipated to lead to an accelerated uptake of these safer, more productive vehicles. This, in turn, was expected to see a reduction in the growth of the number of trucks on the road, producing a safer outcome.”

He said the ATA’s solution would deliver road agencies the same amount of revenue, at the same time returning to the intended benefits of the B-double combination.

“By returning to a common trailer axle charge and slightly increasing charges across the trailer fleet, we would see a return to safer on-road combinations and a better utilisation of the existing fleet, which was COAG’s original directive,” he said.

B-doubles carry 46 per cent of Australia’s articulated freight but only account for 29 per cent of major truck crashes. They have the latest safety features and their drivers are licensed to a higher standard. Each B-double carries more freight than a conventional semitrailer, which reduces the growth in the number of trucks on the road – and therefore the growth in the accident risk.

Hartwigs delivers its 1000th Western Star

terry-hannon-hartwigs
Terry Hannon, manager of Boree Creek based grain haulage outfit W Hannon and Son, with the 1000th Western Star sold by Hartwigs of Wagga Wagga

There was cause for celebration in the Riverina city of Wagga Wagga recently when local Western Star dealer Hartwigs delivered its 1000th Western Star to W Hannon and Son, a third generation transport business that started back in the ‘40s.

Based at Boree Creek, roughly an hour west of Wagga Wagga, W Hannon and Son provides a general carrying service to the region as well as the bulk haulage of grain from the Riverina to Melbourne.

According to manager Terry Hannon, the substantial rains early in the season have produced bumper crops which see its Western Star fleet working around the clock hauling the record harvest.

Terry admitted the build quality of the Western Star products along with their reliability are key factors in his purchasing decisions, along with the exceptional back up service the company receives from Hartwigs.

The 1000th Western Star is a 4800 model with a 36-inch Stratosphere sleeper set up for B-double work. It’s fitted with a Cummins ISX rated at 500 hp coupled to an Eaton 18-speed manual driving through Meritor 46,000 pound rear axles riding an Air-Liner rear suspension.

According to Tim Hartwig, general manager of Hartwigs Trucks, “The ongoing growth and success of Western Star and Hartwigs is a credit to all our people who have taken personal pride in every Western Star truck that’s delivered, and more importantly a credit to all our loyal customers such as Terry Hannon, who for many years, have trusted and supported Hartwigs and the Western Star product.”

CAPTION
Terry Hannon, manager of Boree Creek based grain haulage outfit W Hannon and Son, with the 1000th Western Star sold by Hartwigs of Wagga Wagga.

Carbon tax inequality between transport modes

The road/ rail rift has intensified following news that the trucking industry was successful in negotiating with the Government for an exemption from the new carbon tax until July 1, 2014. In contrast, the rail sector will be slugged with the tax from July 1 next year.

Commenting on trucking’s two year tax exemption, Australian Trucking Association (ATA) chairman David Simon said the government’s decision would give small trucking businesses breathing space to increase their fuel efficiency and renegotiate contracts with their customers.

“In the lead-up to the announcement, the ATA argued strongly that trucking operators should be exempt from the carbon tax altogether,” David Simon said. “In a series of meetings, including with Minister Combet’s senior staff, we pointed out that 85 percent of trucking businesses have fewer than five employees, and a limited ability to pass on increases in their costs.

“We also stressed that the industry has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent per billion tonne kilometres since 1990, as well as massively reduced its other emissions, at a cost to the industry of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

On July 1, 2014, the effective fuel tax paid by trucking operators will increase by 6.858 cents per litre, matching the planned 2014-15 carbon price of $25.40. This is expected to cost the industry and its customers $510 million in 2014-15 alone. The industry’s effective fuel tax will then vary every six months as Australia’s carbon price changes.

“I would like to thank the Government for listening,” Simon continued. “The exemption will give trucking operators time to renegotiate long-term contracts with their customers and look at how to improve their fuel efficiency.”

However, he stressed that the Government would need to push ahead with fixing the road transport regulations and charges that prevent trucking operators from using the most efficient equipment.

“The ATA’s recent environmental report shows the industry’s ability to reduce its fuel consumption is restricted by government regulation, poorly thought out charges and a lack of research and development on energy-saving technology,” he concluded.

Far from surprisingly, the announcement of trucking’s exemption has got right up the rail sector’s nose with the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) claiming it “… will essentially punish environmentally friendly rail and reward heavy vehicles.”

According to ARA chief Bryan Nye, the association has been a strong advocate for including the entire transport sector in the carbon price and the exclusion of heavy vehicles from a carbon tax until 2014 is very disappointing.

“While rail supports action on climate change, under this scheme rail, which is considerably less emissions intensive, will have to grapple with significant increases in its costs, while the more polluting road vehicles are exempt,” said Nye. “This carbon tax will essentially make public transport more expensive compared to private road vehicles. I can’t see how this is meant to reduce emissions, it is ludicrous.”

The carbon price is expected to cost the rail industry in excess of $100 million dollars for energy costs alone.

“We’ve recently conducted a comprehensive survey on public transport,” he continued. “Out of 1510 participants surveyed, 72 percent believed that some of the carbon tax revenue should be used for sustainable transport infrastructure such as public transport. It is strange that the carbon price announcement provides little in the way of low-carbon transport options. We urge that funds set aside for clean technologies be extended to the transport sector.”

Brian went on to reiterate that while the rail industry wants to see action on climate change, it objects to the way the carbon price within the transport sector is currently penalising the low-carbon transport options.

“It’s not too late to rectify some of these issues and I urge all parties to rethink the application of the carbon price on the transport sector to ensure a level playing field. As a priority, heavy vehicles must be included from the beginning of the scheme,” he concluded.

SuperRigs contest attracts America’s finest

Shell’s annual SuperRigs calendar contest attracts America’s finest trucks and typically, 2011 showcased the skill and passion of US truckers not only vying for prizes in the various categories but also a highly coveted spot on the next US SuperRigs calendar. Our North American correspondent STEVE STURGESS wouldn’t miss it for quids, mainly because he’s one of the judges.

American Custom

Shell’s calendar shoot and beauty show are still the biggest glamour event for trucks in North America and while this year’s 29th Shell Rotella SuperRigs contest saw just 60 sensationally prepared trucks lining up for honours in Kenly, North Carolina, the quality of the rigs was as high as ever.

The contest for America’s most glamorous rigs moves to a different venue each year but no matter where it’s held, truckers and their families come from all over to compete or to just stare and be amazed at the craftsmanship and attention to detail that make these the most spectacular rigs in American trucking: And all the more spectacular for the fact that the great majority are working trucks, earning a living day in and day out, and some with well over a million miles on the clock.

In most cases, the two and a half days event is paradise for Peterbilt fans with the iconic Paccar brand dominating exhibits. But Petes certainly don’t have a mortgage on the contest, with corporate cohort Kenworth also grabbing a healthy slice of the action along with a smattering of Freightliner and Mack.

As always though, there’s plenty of nail biting because except for the truck that wins ‘Best of Show’, a spot on the calendar is not necessarily guaranteed even if the rig is a winner in its class or category.

So in addition to the three top places there are also 15 class places and six category winners, but then only 11 available slots on the calendar. Altogether a lot of reasons for the owners of the nation’s top glamour trucks to pull out all the stops, as this selection of photos shows.

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  • Best of Show trophy and a $10,000 cheque went to Jeremy Heidersheit with his 2003 Peterbilt and immaculate soft-sided trailer.
  • Proving that Petes don’t win everything, Scott Diller’s Kenworth W900 won its way into the SuperRigs calendar shoot. On the inside, the hot-rod theme displayed amazing craftsmanship.
  • High achiever in the tractor-trailer class, for obvious reasons.
  • Green mean machine was stunningly finished but it’s not a full-time working truck so it didn’t score highly with the judges
  • Top scores in the Classic class were won by this ’96 Peterbilt 379 model. The story goes it was once a used and abused logging truck and believe it or not, it now spends its days in the muck and filth of the landfill business.
  • Another highly awarded Kenworth. This one was also a star attraction in the ‘night lights’ show.
  • Winner in the Top Tractor category, this ’06 Peterbilt 379 was something of a return to the old days with a small flat-top sleeper and creative striping.
  • Earning a ‘First Runner-Up’ trophy and a fat cheque was this immaculate 2007 Peterbilt and soft-sided trailer combination.
  • Top honors in the tractor-trailer class went to T. J. Timblin’s ’05 Kenworth W900L pulling a step-frame trailer. Despite losing a leg in a loading accident, young T.J. still drives just about every day.
  • Farmers Oil fuel tanker rig was judged ‘Peoples Choice’ by fellow competitors and show visitors alike. Easy to see why!
  • This Pete didn’t win a place in any particular class event but it was still judged good enough to win a spot in the SuperRigs calendar.
  • There’s still bite in the old dog. Best Engine presentation went to a V8 Mack Super-Liner, along with Best Interior and a runner-up trophy for Best of Show.
  • In the 29 year history of the Shell SuperRigs event, this 1989 LTL is the first Ford to win a place in the calendar.
  • Southern pride. The stripes are straight from Starsky and Hutch and the detail was good enough to win a coveted place on the calendar.
  • A trick paint scheme and ‘extra’ shiny wheels on the tridem of this Kenworth W900L grabbed the judges’ attention and a spot on the SuperRigs 2012 calendar.
  • Patriot! The mural on this 2001 Freightliner needs no explanation.
  • Looks are deceiving because despite the immaculate appearance of truck and trailer, this outfit is a true workhorse, spending its days spreading fertiliser in fields.
  • Three million miles and a fastidious owner have been amazingly kind to this 1987 Peterbilt.
  • Black beauty. Even at SuperRigs there’s still a place for the minimal look.