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ATA charges regulation call to halt exploitation

National body puts states and infrastructure operators squarely in frame


The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has taken direct aim again at the financial exploitation of the trucking industry.

The national peak industry body urges the federal government to ensure the planned independent price regulator for truck charges has the power to regulate toll road and landside port charges.

Extra local government road use charges must be banned, ATA chair Geoff Crouch insists. 

The call comes as Transurban’s preponderant position in toll roads nationally was given added impetus from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

FIRB has now accepted Transurban’s push to control Sydney’s WestConnex, which, despite ATA opposition, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had earlier waived through.

The ATA’s statement relates to its regulatory impact statement (RIS) submission  on phase two of the Heavy Vehicle Road Reform (HVRR).

For that phase, the federal government recently issued a consultation paper on establishing an independent price regulator for the fuel-based road user charge. 

“Our members are being hammered by rapidly increasing toll road charges, landside port charges and local government charges,” Crouch says. 

“On the M7 in Sydney, for example, truck tolls have increased from the same amount as cars to three times the car toll.

“Trucking businesses can’t avoid these tolls – it’s not like you can transport a pallet of cleaning products on a bus or bike. 

“The ACCC’s announcement that it would not oppose the Transurban consortium bid for WestConnex, followed by the NSW Government’s announcement  …  that the bid was successful, confirms that new laws are needed to control these spiralling charges.”

Read about the united resistance to trucking-focused surcharges, here 


The ATA lays responsibility for the situation at the feet of state governments in a deleterious alliance with major infrastructure controlling firms, but also by inference at the loose implementation of the doctrine of asset recycling that has been embraced at a state and federal level.

“The ACCC has reflected on the strong financial motives for governments to structure privatisation processes in order to maximise the sale price of their assets, and that as a result, governments have little incentive to closely examine whether the market structure and regulatory arrangements that will apply post-privatisation are conducive to competition and appropriate outcomes,” the submission.

“This is true of toll road concessions. The incentive for state governments is to reduce the upfront cost of new road infrastructure without giving full consideration to the long-term outcomes for competition, urban connectivity and costs for businesses and other road users.

“Private toll road owners and state governments have been increasing toll road charges on heavy vehicles whilst avoiding a fair distribution of increases with light vehicles.

“At the same time, toll roads are increasingly becoming a monopoly asset for heavy vehicle traffic, with NorthConnex in Sydney being accompanied by truck bans on alternative routes.

“The New South Wales Government has progressively increased the truck toll multiplier to three times the car toll on new and renegotiated toll road concession agreements.

“In Queensland, the truck toll multiplier on the Logan and Gateway motorways will progressively increase to 3.46 times the car toll once the Logan Enhancement Project is completed in mid-2019. In Victoria, the toll for heavy vehicles using CityLink increased by up to 125 per cent to fund the CityLink-Tullamarine widening project.”

The ATA believes the independent regulator should also have power over landside port charges. 

“Landside port surcharges have increased dramatically. Surcharge increases introduced in 2017 have ranged from $20 to $30 per container, and in some cases have increased twice within the one year,” Crouch says.

“In the latest round of unwarranted charge increases, local councils in Western Australia are imposing additional access charges on heavy vehicle operators.

“The ATA submission points to one metropolitan example where a company has had to abandon operating at concessional mass limits because of the excessive local government charges.

“As a direct result, it now runs an additional 1,420 truck movements per year within the council area for a single product line.

“These ridiculous charges have to stop.

“The planned independent price regulator must be responsible for regulating toll road and landside port charges. Independent price regulation must also prevent local councils for charging extra for access to their roads.” 

The other WA example relates to a regional shire where “a trucking operator is charged $700,000 for use of a road. The operator also pays for road maintenance and must provide a report to the local council on how the maintenance is spent on the road. The access charge goes into consolidated revenue. “

The ATA submission rejects the federal plan to change the way charges are calculated from the current PayGo model to a forward-looking cost base (FLCB). 

“The ATA does not support the introduction of a FLCB as part of stage two of HVRR,” its submission says.

“Governments have provided insufficient detail to provide confidence that the FLCB would deliver the intended benefits, and the RIS provides no evidence to alter this view.”

The ATA’s position in that implementation of the forward-looking cost base (FLCB) should be deferred until:

  • independent price regulation has been successfully established
  • reform of the investment framework provides independent and efficient road management, and stable, long term road funding commitments
  • the FLCB model and inputs are transparently assessed.

Independent price regulation should be established by implementing a new option C, which should be based on option B with the following changes:

  • no forward-looking cost base
  • expanded coverage to include toll road and landside port charges, and the removal of duplicated charges such as those imposed by local government
  • more scrutiny of cost inputs with the power to disallow.

The full ATA submission can be found here.


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