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Give us a break on truck charges, say peak bodies

Peak trucking bodies are calling for some relief from increased heavy vehicle charges next year.

In their submissions to the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) heavy vehicle charges consultation process, which closed on August 24, both NatRoad and the Australian Trucking Association say operators can’t afford to be slugged by another increase in registration and road user charges.

One option the NTC is looking to present to road transport ministers later this year for consideration is a one-off 16.5 per cent jump to be implemented in 2022.

“But this overall figure would include a 22 per cent increase in the road user charge and registration charge increases of 85 per cent for some vehicles,” said ATA chief of staff Bill McKinley. 

“The ATA submission recognises that even large businesses struggle to increase their rates in line with CPI.  

“That’s why we are arguing that charges should increase 2 per cent in 2022-23, followed by a 3 per cent increase in each of 2023-24 and
2024-25.”

To maximise certainty for the industry and governments, the proposed charges should be set for the whole three year period covered by the determination, with the NTC publishing information for the industry and customers about how the charges will change as a result, added McKinley. 

The ATA’s submission argues that trucking businesses should only be charged directly for major road projects that have been endorsed by an independent infrastructure agency such as Infrastructure Australia. 

“At present, the charging system is entirely driven by governments’ spending decisions. 

“It requires trucking operators to pay an outsize share of the cost of road investments that are not freight priorities and higher costs due to inadequate project assessment and selection,” McKinley said. 

NatRoad chief executive officer Waren Clark said road charging reform must take into account all road users and provide a better, more equitable system for paying for the costs of road construction.

“Until the Heavy Vehicle Road Reform process is implemented, we support a fixed price increase of 3.5 per cent or CPI increase (whichever is lower),” Clark said.

“Our industry has suffered from the impact of bush fires, floods and now Covid-19, as acknowledged by transport ministers.

“These events and difficult industry conditions have constrained the industry’s ability to cope with increased costs, inclusive of government charges.

“The PAYGO model for heavy vehicle charges should only be used as a 2021-22 baseline on which to calculate future HV charges.”

Clark adds that the current PAYGO system assumes that all Australia’s roads are sealed when most are not.

“It operates to include all costs incurred in one year in the next year’s charges. Capital and current costs are not separated.

“And it results in payments flowing to states and territories that do not take into account the real cost recovery need for road construction and maintenance as that is related to heavy vehicle usage.

“A new model is needed to underpin the HVRR process. In the meantime, a fixed price increase is a better outcome than the application of the PAYGO or alternative
models.”

The ATA submission also argues strongly against the NTC’s proposal to remove the community service obligation (CSO) discount in the charging system for double and triple road trains serving remote communities. 

“The CSO for remote communities should not just be retained; it should be expanded as part of a whole of government response to the report of the House of
Representatives Indigenous Affairs Committee on food pricing and food security in remote Indigenous communities,” he said. 

“The updated PAYGO model is of great importance to the trucking industry and its members, which is why it is vital the new model achieve
effective, value for money results for industry, governments and the community.”

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