Modern roads must be funded by a system which secures road funding into the future, and is fair, transparent, and predictable. That was one of the key takeaways from a wide-reaching snapshot of major industry issues, Trucking Australia: The Report, which was released by ATA CEO Michael Deegan at the recent Trucking Australia conference.
“A system which proposes 10 per cent tax increases each year for three years is broken,” said the report.
“There is no accountability about how funding is spent. There is no concern for the ability of business to pass on costs and survive.
The probe said road-related fuel excise revenue is eroding due to improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, despite the increasing number of kilometres that Australian vehicles travel. Increasing numbers of electric and zero emission vehicles will only accelerate this trend.
“Our road user charging system is breaking down. Declining revenue will only increase the likelihood of extreme price hikes into the future.
“In the absence of national road user charges reform, the proliferation of state-based road user charges for electric vehicles will further undermine the goal of having a transparent, sustainable and fair system for funding Australia’s road network.”
The ATA said Australia can’t afford eight different taxes, with different rates and systems, on how Australians drive.
As an example, the report cited Victoria’s new EV tax which applies on Victorian vehicles even when they are not driving in Victoria.
“State-led road tax confusion will disadvantage the funding of roads in states with large road networks and smaller vehicle fleets. We can’t afford to make our regional and remote roads even worse.”
The solutions that the ATA is proposing include:
• A lower pathway for road user charge increases of zero per cent in 2023- 24 and then 2 .75 per cent in 2024-25 and 2025-26, instead of the increases of up to 10 per cent each year under consideration by governments.
• A lower road user charge for remote Australia, which would save remote area trucking operators and extra 13 .6 cents per litre on the cost of fuel.
• Long-term reforms to the broken heavy vehicle cost base and road user charging system.
The report also highlighted the lack of progress on rest areas for truckies, citing a government audit 15 years ago that found not a single route met rest area guidelines.
“That audit should have led to this issue being fixed in the 15 years which has now passed . “For too long the approach to fixing rest areas has felt like governments have only been interested in applying Band-aids – with only a limited supply of Band-aids – rather than approach the issue with a comprehensive strategy.”
In recent years, the ATA said average annual federal funding under the dedicated program for rest area improvements was delivering well under $10 million annually for truck rest areas.
“Rest areas became an afterthought even in the dedicated funding program designed to fix them. Industry has warmly welcomed the Australian government’s commitment of an additional $80 million for rest areas over the next four years, with input from drivers and industry into the funding program. This is a strong downpayment on fixing an issue which has been forgotten and ignored for too long.”
The ATA said it has campaigned for minimum rest area standards, which governments would then need to ensure are delivered.
“These standards should include the distance between rest areas, their design and a requirement that new rest areas on the national highway network be able to accommodate 53.5m combinations.”