Early industry reaction to the federal budget delivered on Tuesday night is that it’s a mixed bag overall, with no real surprises, leg-ups, or lifelines for those doing it tough.
The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) said the heavy vehicle sector has missed out on meaningful economic relief, while the Western Roads Federation (WRF) said road transport was “already a loser” with the pre-budget announcement that the road user charge (RUC) would rise by 6 per cent for the next three years.
“Inevitably, no matter how minor this increase in the charge is, it will have an inflationary impact,” said WRF CEO Cam Dumesny.
“Yes, we need to pay but continuing to base the charge on the deeply flawed NTC pay as you go model needs to cease.”
NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said the rise in the RUC and a tightening of the instant asset write-off scheme were in line with expectations.
“The government has applied the brakes to the amount small businesses can claim on their tax for a piece of new equipment, cutting it from a Covid level of $150,000 to $20,000,” said Clark.
“Operators who turnover up to $10 million a year can write off the full cost of assets worth up to $20,000 but we asked for that to be extended over a period of years to give businesses certainty.
“Equipment costing more than $20,000 can be placed into a depreciation pool, which allows businesses to immediately write off 15 percent and a further 30 percent each year after.”
Clark said the budget papers showed the federal government would book $101.8 million from the RUC in 2023-24, $369 million in 2025-26 and $391.5 million in 2026-27.
“That’s more than a billion dollars that trucking businesses will have to find somewhere and if they can’t pass it on to customers and ultimately consumers, they will go under,” said Clark.
NatRoad said there will be some relief for operators with aggregated annual turnover of less than $50 million being able to deduct an additional 20 per cent of the cost of eligible depreciating assets that support electrification and more efficient use of energy.
Up to $100,000 of total expenditure will also be eligible for the Small Business Energy Incentive, with the maximum bonus deduction being $20,000.
“We also note there’s $1.1 billion in road funding for existing repair and improvement programs but it’s strung out over 10 years and much of it is for projects already in the pipeline,” he said.
“That’s a drop in the ocean when you look at the state of our freight roads right around the country and much more needs to be done.
“There’s $22.3 million from 2023–24 for assessments of local government roads to support a national automated road access system for trucks, but its implementation is six years or more away.”
Clark also added that significant incentives or assistance for the heavy vehicle industry to move towards zero emissions were noticeably absent.
Dumesny noted that measures were put in place to help with warnings about impending natural diasters, but no there were no identified measures to help make WA regional freight routes more resilient.
He’s also seeking more clarification and industry-specific benefits around the $3.7 billion shot in the arm for workforce training.
“What we will be pushing for is that is linked to either direct traineeships in companies and/or direct industry engagement in the training programs, so trainees graduate as employable and are linked to jobs,” he said.
Other industry positives are:
• $64.2 million over six years for the delivery of transport and infrastructure priorities, including $35.6 million for IT systems to support infrastructure investment and road vehicle safety regulation
• $43.6 million over four years for a new National Road Safety Action Grants Program to support community education and awareness, vulnerable road users, First Nations road safety, technology, innovation and research.