The current freeze on the rate of fuel tax is to be extended. Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss has announced his intention to freeze the heavy vehicle Road User Charge at the current rate of 26.14 cents/l for the 2015-16 financial year.
“More than 45,000 of the 49,000 businesses in the trucking industry will benefit from the small business tax changes in the budget’” said Christopher Melham, Australian Trucking Association CEO. “Now, the Government has followed up by freezing the fuel tax paid by all of Australia’s 49,000 trucking operators.”
The decision to continue the freeze follows lobbying by the ATA and other trucking industry associations about problems with the model used by the National Transport Commission to calculate trucking’s fuel tax and registration charges.
“The NTC’s charging model is supposed to ensure that the fuel tax and heavy vehicle registration charges cover the cost of the truck and bus industries’ use of the road system,” said Melham. “But the NTC has conceded that its model is flawed, because it underestimates the number of heavy vehicles on the road. It loses about 52,000 vehicles. As a result, the calculated charge on each vehicle is too high, as is the total amount collected.
“The NTC recommended that the fuel tax on trucks and buses should be increased by 0.6 per cent in 2015-16. This would have resulted in our industries being overcharged by about $117 million. The Government’s decision to freeze our fuel tax for the second year running will reduce the level of over-recovery. It is a great result.”
National President of the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association, Grant Robins, said the Deputy Prime Minister Truss has listened to the concerns of rural and regional transport operators and made a sensible decision.
“This decision is great news for all transport operators and rural and regional economies,” said Robins. “While State and Territory Governments have gone ahead and increased heavy vehicle registration charges in line with the NTC’s recommendation, the Federal Government has done the right thing by industry and frozen the RUC at the current level for another year.” he said.
More good news came after the announcement of the NSW and South Australian budgets. Duncan Gay, NSW Minister for Roads and Freight announced a $7.5 billion investment in the infrastructure program currently underway to build road, maritime and freight networks. The South Australian budget delivered $165 million over four years in a road infrastructure stimulus package to boost productivity and improve safety on regional and suburban roads.
SA’s Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Stephen Mullighan, said the road infrastructure funding included $70m to improve critical road infrastructure and $40m to improve the safety of roads.
Gay said the NSW budget includes $4.1 billion for Regional NSW including $1.9 billion to continue fast tracking upgrades of regional highways such as the Pacific, Princes, Great Western, Newell, New England, Oxley, Mitchell, Kings, Central Coast, Silver City and Cobb. It also includes $1.7 billion to build Sydney’s WestConnex.
“Government initiatives such as Fixing Country Roads are starting to reverse decades of under-investment and neglect of council-owned roads and bridges,” said Gay. “Wherever you look across the state we are Rebuilding NSW to provide the critical transport and freight infrastructure our communities and businesses need and deserve.”