With heavy vehicles having to pay up to three times more to use some of Sydney’s toll roads, Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) says trucks have become “cash cows” for the state’s toll operators.
In its submission to the Toll Review last week, RFNSW highlighted the impact excessive tolls are having on many NSW transport operators.
“It is well known that Sydney holds the dubious honour of having the most extensive, and expensive, urban toll road network in the world. High tolls in NSW continue to have negative impacts on road freight businesses, workers and their families,” RFNSW said in the submission.
“Heavy vehicle tolls have progressively been increased across most routes, particularly across the Sydney road network, at the rate of up to three times the rate of light vehicles.
“RFNSW believes this is unfair and discriminatory. It is instructive to note that in 2017, a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry recommended that the NSW Government identify and publish the evidence to support the decision to charge trucks three times more than light vehicles, but this has not occurred to date. The fact is, trucks have become ‘cash cows’ for NSW toll operators.”
While RFNSW has welcomed reforms to the state’s toll roads put forward by the new Minns Government, which includes a cap on tolls from January 1, 2024, RFNSW says more must be done to ease financial pressures on trucking operators who are already struggling to pay toll fees that are constantly on the rise, along with other administration costs, such as port surcharges.
“Current tolling fees are unfair and inequitable for our RFNSW members, many of whom are small to medium sized family owned and operated businesses, who must be given incentives for their frequent, and costly, road toll usage, if they are to continue operating,” the submission said.
“RFNSW believes long-term reforms must be implemented, to ensure that costs and benefits of toll roads are better aligned, to support struggling freight businesses and also deliver improved safety outcomes for all road-users.”
According to RFNSW, its members are paying tens of thousands of dollars in tolls every month. The transport body pointed to one such example being family-owned and operated transport company Vellex, which is based in western Sydney. Its toll fees currently sit at around $100,000 each month.
Chief executive officer of RFNSW Simon O’Hara said, “We look forward to the Inquiry examining the lack of transparency and equity of the current NSW tolling system, which continues to unfairly impact thousands of road freight operators and their families, the wider community and our local and national economies.”
RFNSW says long-term reforms need to be implemented. In the submission, it says these reforms could include:
- Off-peak/time-of-day tolls discounts;
- A ‘per-km’ distance-based tolls;
- Incentives for truckies to use toll roads, such as reduced registration fees and/or specific cash back schemes;
- Tolls based on a heavy vehicle’s mass;
- Tolls based on a heavy vehicle’s environmental features (the cleaner the truck, the lower the toll);
- An independent pricing regulator, such as IPART, overseeing the current tolling system, to ensure transparency and equity for road users.
“RFNSW has long-argued that truck operators must be incentivised to use expensive toll roads. As a first-step, the NSW Government should reduce registration costs for trucks, in line with the registration reduction for caravans and light vehicles,” the submission said.
“The government should consider the use of differential tolling and a range of other tolling options for heavy vehicles. Differential tolling aims to ensure costs and benefits of toll roads are better aligned. Charging options like time-of-day or variable rate tolls, like the Oregon model, charges per day (rather than per trip), or multiple trip passes can be considered as ways to ease congestion both by encouraging vehicles off congested roads and offering incentives to smooth out demand across the day.”