Trucking industry renews bid for fee reform

THE trucking industry has renewed calls for federal and state governments to stop overcharging truck and bus operators before a national overhaul of heavy-vehicle fees goes ahead.  

The industry is bracing for almost $510 million in overcharges over the next two years while awaiting the outcome of the Transport and Infrastructure Council's Heavy Vehicle Road Reform, a date for which has not been set.  

The Australian Trucking Association said resolving the overcharging of truck and bus operators should be governments' "highest priority".   Heavy vehicle operators were overcharged about $250 million in 2016-17, according to National Transport Commission figures, and will again be overcharged in 2017-18 to the tune of about $265 million.  

"The overcharging will continue beyond 2017-18," the ATA said, "As a down payment on future reform, governments must first address and resolve the overcharging."  

In 2014 the NTC found the existing model determining heavy vehicle charges, called the PAYGO framework, consistently underestimated truck numbers on the road by about 70,000 each year. This led to truck and bus operators being collectively overcharged about $250 million annually.  

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found there were about 3.5 million registered freight vehicles in 2016.  

An NTC report last year outlined three options to address the overcharging issue. In response, governments opted to freeze revenues from heavy vehicle charges until June 30 next year, rather than the "industry-preferred" solution of lowering registration and road-user costs.  

The ATA's Bill McKinley said freezing revenues, "didn't adequately deal with the problem of over-recovery".   "Governments are very interested in reforming heavy vehicle fees, they see it as an extremely important national policy and we agree, but in order to implement change, they first need to resolve this overcharging issue, it's the threshold issue.  

"We can talk at length about a future scheme, but the immediate discussion is that we know the industry is currently overcharged, how are you going to fix that?" he said.  

Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Associating executive director Mathew Munro agreed: "Under the current model, governments are knowingly overcharging industry by more than $200 million annually and for years have stubbornly refused to fix this problem, even though it could be achieved by a simple decision requiring no legislative change whatsoever.  

"The message is clear: revenue trumps fairness. The very first step in reforming heavy vehicle charges must be an immediate return to fair cost recovery," Mr Munro said.  

A Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development spokeswoman said the government was aware of the industry's concerns and "also aware of the concerns of state and territory road management agencies that revenue generated through heavy vehicle road related fees and charges does not cover the costs of providing heavy-vehicle-enabled road services."

News Corp Australia

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