Peak trucking body NatRoad has called on the federal government to design and implement a new national road-charging system that is fair to all road users before the future funding and safety of the road networks falls into a financial pothole.
This follows the High Court decision last week which ruled against distance-based road charges for electric and low emission vehicles which had been put in place by Victoria, with similar taxes planned in NSW and Western Australia to commence in 2027.
“Now Australia’s road user charging system has been upended by the High Court, our already broken system for how we pay for roads is unravelling even further,” said NatRoad CEO Warren Clark.
“The emerging state-based road user charging system for electric vehicles risked imposing new layers of red tape and complex charge rates on businesses.
“This is a watershed decision which confirms that national road pricing and infrastructure reform will be unavoidable. The current state-based system is unfair and needs a radical overhaul that fairly balances road use against the costs of maintaining and improving our national road system.”
Clark said it’s also unfair that other road users including the trucking industry should shoulder the costs of road charges when electric vehicle owners do not.
“There should be no free ride for electric and low emission vehicles when other road users have to pick up their bill.
“Some claim that electric vehicles already pay their fair share in other taxes on higher purchase prices. But this ignores that this other revenue will decline as electric vehicles become more affordable, fuel excise will collapse over time, and not charging electric vehicles for road use is like handing them an incentive to increase urban congestion.
“We can still build in incentives for zero and low emission vehicles as part of a fair system.
Clark said the High Court decision clearly and firmly places responsibility back on the federal government to devise and implement a scheme of road charging that is fair and reasonable to all road users,
That includes the trucking industry which has carried a disproportionate share for years, he said.
Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Mathew Munro also said the Australian Government must now develop and implement a new pricing and charging system for road use urgently.
“Electric vehicles are only a very small part of the fleet, but their numbers are growing rapidly. Hydrogen and other non-traditional fuels will also play a role decarbonising the transport sector,” Munro said.
“The government needs to have a plan for calculating and collecting road user charges for all vehicles using an alternative fuel source to ensure we can sustain the road infrastructure spend necessary to support our communities and industry into the future.
“The current PAYGO determination for charging heavy vehicles ends in 2026. The government must then replace PAYGO with a new system that includes service level standards, capital and operational expenditure plans approved by an independent body, and a national road user charge for heavy vehicles using alternative fuels.”
The ATA asked for and was granted leave to make submissions to the court arguing that state ZLEV charges would defeat the ability of the Australian parliament to execute a charging policy for all road users.