There has been a constant stream of issues for the trucking industry every time road charging raises its ugly head. The facts of the matter are that the trucking industry should be expected to pay its way and fund the road network it needs to get the task of moving the goods around the country, as demanded by the economy.
However, the other fact of the matter is that the government have been consistently incompetent and slow moving in developing a system whereby a fair duty is levied on the trucking industry which is commensurate with the amount of road maintenance which is required as a result of the roads being used to move freight around the country, including getting extra loads of toilet paper to the supermarkets of Australia.
There is no-one involved in this area who can honestly say that the system we have had in place for some time is not seriously flawed. It was brought in as a way of melding the road use of the trucking industry with the costs of maintaining our roads.
It has been clear for many years that the calculations are actually miscalculations and some simple back of the envelope checks will show that the trucking industry has been consistently overcharged, with the added insult of the owners of some specific types of vehicle getting hit the hardest.
Coincidentally, the owners of cars, who apparently are the voters in this country, have not contributed their fair share to road maintenance. In the early 2000s the government accepted that the calculations left a lot to be desired and said it would do something.
Money has been spent and consultations have taken place. The whole spectre of mass/distance/location charging has been examined and then dropped a number of times. However, this ‘panacea’ has been held up as the future solution and an excuse to not do anything about the existing system for too long.
The government did acknowledge its mistake in the past by freezing the levels of road user charge for a few years but the pressure to up revenue has seen its determination to continue the upward movement of overcharging to help fill the coffers.
Trucking had accepted that the inevitable would happen and the road user charge would begin to rise. However, the original proposal of an 11 per cent rise was negotiated down to 2.5 per cent over the next two years.
Now, the trucking industry does have real concerns as the first of those rises is timetabled for this July. The economy is not travelling well. The bushfire crisis has hit the industry, as it has many businesses. The request to delay the road user charge increase for a year can only be described as a reasonable one.
Meanwhile, where is a fair and equitable road charging scheme for all road users? Over the horizon and lost in the smoke haze, apparently.