Transport operators are rallying in protest at a 137 per cent increase in gate fee card charges to enter the Melbourne Markets this year.
One operator Big Rigs spoke to is so incensed by the jump from $32.20 to $76.20, inclusive of GST, per driver, that he’s instructing his truckies to park up their B-doubles at the gate to block access.
The cause of the stink is the Melbourne Markets’ new marketing program called A Better Choice, which the Melbourne Markets Authority, the governing body, is asking transport companies to help pay for via the new surcharge.
In a letter to all market suppliers, the MMA said that the compulsory annual fee component of $44 is the “fairest way to ensure that everyone who benefits from the program contributes to its success”.
But Darren Nolan, director at Gatton-based Nolan’s Interstate Transport, disagrees, and has lodged his protest at the price hike in a series of emails to the MMA and the Victorian Small Business Commission and ombudsman.
“There is a big difference between those in the market who are their tenants and those who are delivering their clients’ product into the market,” said Nolan.
“This is an absolute price gouge – it doesn’t make sense.
“How is a 137 per cent increase justified, and how is that a reasonable cost increase in the current climate?”
Nolan said he would not be taking up the alternative suggestion by the MMA that in lieu of paying the card fee, he could advertise the market on his fleet of trucks.
Gary Mahon, CEO of the Queensland Trucking Association, said marketing of any MMA campaign is the responsibility of the grower or state government, not the transport operator.
“The road freight industry is not the go-to ATM,” said Mahon.
Les Blennerhassett, director of the busy North Queensland-based Blenners Transport, said he’s now refusing to pay the advertising/marketing component of the gate fee card.
According to the MMA correspondence to card holders, that would mean operators can still gain access, but drivers have to sign in at the security gatehouse each time.
This would entail a full sign-in process, visitor induction and alcohol breath-testing.
“I’ll make the boys park it up in the driveway and spend half an hour doing the induction, and they won’t be able to get any other traffic in or out,” said Blennerhassett.
Peter Anderson, CEO of the Victoria Transport Association, said the gate pass surcharge is taking unfair advantage of those who use the market and can’t distribute their produce any other way.
“Once again we see the transport industry used as the “Tax Collector” in a monopolistic commercial environment,” said Anderson.
Anderson said The Melbourne Market Authority was originally established to ensure fairness in the wholesale trading of the food and flower sector.
“What the MMA is doing in this instance goes against this philosophy.
“The VTA does not approve of the actions by the MMA by increasing the HV entry fee by 137% and the arrogant attitude being shown to this industry sector.
“The industry does not object to reasonable increases being imposed but this increase is out of balance and displays nothing but greed and avarice from the Melbourne Market Authority.
“Its Chairman, Peter Touhey, needs to revisit this decision and ensure that the MMA stays true to its principles.”
Melbourne Markets did not respond to our request for an explanation.
The MMA had given operators until October 31 to pay the gate surcharge or their access by card would be revoked.