Opinion

Time to take action on the financial pressures we face

All Australians rely on trucking. But what many Australians and our governments don’t understand is the financial pressure trucking businesses are facing.

Ninety-eight per cent of Australian trucking companies are owner-operators or small businesses, many of which are family-owned and operated.

Cash flow is important. Most costs like wages and fuel are incurred before these operators can bill their customers, so margins are always tight.

Amidst challenges of bushfires, a global pandemic, floods, drought and everything in between, these businesses have always been on the frontline. They have been the ones working hard to get Australians back on their feet and communities supplied with food, fuel and necessary goods.

Furthermore, data from Australia Post tells us that 2020 was this busiest year ever for online shopping, with truck drivers delivering parcels to more than nine million households across the country. Which means that despite border delays, lockdowns and increased financial pressures, industry pushed on.

With small and family businesses doing so much for our country, it’s vital they get the support they need and deserve.

More than a third of trucking businesses are still impacted by coronavirus challenges, facing reduced demand and reduced cashflow.

Government’s must understand this and take action. We must see measures that reflect the current financial environment, unlike the proposal in a recent Austroads report to hike truck registration charges.

The report includes a proposal for massive increases in registration charges for older trucks. Those operating an older truck could be forced to pay up to $20,000 in registration charges per truck per year. That’s a brutal 220 per cent increase from the current registration fee of $6,225 for a prime mover and semi-trailer.

This is a proposal that would affect more than half of Australia’s heavy vehicle fleet and push many hardworking small and family operators right out of business. They simply could not afford to keep their trucks on the road.

These businesses have told us they continue to have limited ability to pass on registration charges and changes in their fuel price, including fuel tax credits.

Instead of punishing businesses we need to see more action from government to support them. Charges must be fairer and more affordable, and measures must be taken to improve business cashflow.

We need action against payment times longer than 30 days, the extension of price regulation to truck tolls and port access charges and changes to allow businesses to pay truck registration charges by monthly direct debit.

In 2020, the ATA argued strongly for measures to help trucking businesses buy new equipment, which ultimately resulted in the Instant Asset Write Off and temporary full expensing. As a result of these measures, trucking businesses are lining up to buy new trucks.

This shows us that with the right support, Australia’s trucking industry will thrive.

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