Overcharging may continue

The trucking industry may continue to be over charged for the use of Australia’s road infrastructure. The meeting of the Australian Transport and Infrastructure Ministerial Council takes place today with a number of big ticket items on the agenda. As the nation’s transport ministers gather in Adelaide, they are set to consider the determination of the level of fuel-based road user charge and vehicle registration charges.

 

The past few days have seen a concerted push by the trucking industry’s various associations to get the subject of the over charging of heavy trucks by the current system. Designed to get road transport to pay for the amount of road wear caused by its vehicles, a number of studies have demonstrated the unfair nature of the way the current registration charges are calculated.

 

“The continued over-charging of the Australian road transport sector would be of national concern” said Warren Clark, recently appointed CEO at NatRoad. “I know of no other industry group that is over-charged like the Australian road transport sector. The ongoing situation sends a very bad message to Australian small business and the road transport sector.”

 

As the Australian Trucking Association asserts, the National Transport Commission has found the existing charging system overcharges truck and bus operators because it has consistently underestimated the number of heavy vehicles on the road. The system should raise about $2.9 billion, but in 2015-16 alone it will overcharge truck and bus operators by more than $190 million.

 

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“We understand the NTC has provided ministers with three options,” said Chris Melham, ATA CEO in a statement. “The best option would be for ministers to agree to eliminate the overtaxing immediately. This would see the road user charge fall from its current level, 26.14 cents per litre, to 25.3 cents per litre in 2016-17. The vast majority of heavy vehicle registration charges would also fall.”

 

Option two would see ministers freeze the revenue governments collect from the charges. This could result in $1.2 billion in overcharging over the next six years.

 

“NTC modelling demonstrates that operators are currently over-charged by around $200m annually,” said Kevin Keenan, Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association National President. “These charges hurt transport operators and increase costs for all other businesses that rely on our services. We are happy to pay our fair share but the over-charging must stop.

 

“Industry is aware that Ministers are now actively considering alternative options, some of which would further delay a return to fair cost recovery principles. We have already had a two year delay, which is more than enough time for governments to adjust to a fairer charging system. Further delays would be nothing more than a blatant opportunistic tax grab.

 

“I also understand that government expenditure on road infrastructure has actually decreased during the past two years of continued over-charging. This just shows that if charges are not pegged against expenditure from 1 July 2016 we can expect to see further deferment of government spending until fair cost recovery is restored, and then there is every chance that we will end up paying for those delayed projects twice.”

 

Trucking is waiting with bated breath for the result of this latest ministerial get-together. Not only is road charging on the agenda, there are also major policy decisions on the future of roadworthiness schemes and further integration between the states under the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator umbrella.

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Author: Tim Giles

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