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ATA speaks out against ending FIRS

Ending the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme will penalise companies, ATA says


The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has spoken out strongly against a move to close the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS), after legislation to do so was introduced in Federal Parliament yesterday.

Vehicles that are registered with FIRS are exempt from stamp duty, and ATA chair Geoff Crouch said overturning the scheme would lead to a $6.2 million annual tax increase on new heavy vehicles.

“As the Prime Minister says, if you increase taxes on investment, you’ll get less investment,” he said.

“While the Government has proposed a one off stamp duty exemption for existing FIRS vehicles, the exemption will not address the ongoing annual costs for operators who would normally register new vehicles in FIRS.”

“The Government is effectively proposing to increase Australia’s reliance on older heavy vehicles, utilising older safety technologies and older emissions standards.”

The ATA is not the only group to speak out against the policy, with the National Road Transport Association urging the federal government to improve the design of FIRS in a submission last year.

However, according to assistant minister to the deputy prime minister Damian Drum, the legislation is “the next logical step… towards a more productive and effective heavy vehicle registration policy”.

Speaking at the second reading of the Interstate Road Transport Legislation (Repeal) Bill 2018 yesterday, Drum says uniform registration charging agreements and increased communication on registration between states and territories had made the FIRS redundant.

“The numbers bear this out… As at 30 June 2017, there were 13,927 FIRS-registered vehicles (including trailers) in Australia, representing only 1.6 per cent of the Australian fleet,” he says.

“Independent modelling suggests that the size of the FIRS fleet will continue to fall, reducing to approximately one per cent of the total fleet by 2022.”

Hanging on to the stamp duty exemption for this group was unfair when it was inaccessible by a majority of the industry, Drum said.

“Continuation of FIRS perpetuates an unfair situation where relatively few operators can access a financial benefit that around 98 per cent of heavy vehicle operators cannot,” he said.

Compounding this was research cited by Drum in his speech which showed that the stamp duty exemption had not helped reduce the average fleet age – which was steady at an average of 14 years.

“A tax exemption for a minority of operators is not sufficient reason to retain an ineffective regulatory program,” he said.

Instead, Drum said the government’s Heavy Vehicle Road Reform mechanism, including a national registration system for heavy vehicles, would serve the transport industry more effectively.

Should the bill pass, existing FIRS operators will move to the new registration system from July 1, 2018, once their current FIRS registration period concludes.

“Existing FIRS operators moving to the national registration system by this date will be eligible for a one-off stamp duty exemption, as well as immediate access to the benefits of the new system,” Drum says.

But Crouch says the government had not released any modelling of the economic impact or the impact on the linehaul fleet, of closing FIRS.

“Today, there’s an opportunity for the Government to use FIRS to set the pace on prescribing suitable road networks for high productivity vehicles, which are safer, more productive, and reduce the impacts of trucks on roads and the environment,” he adds.

“Although it has some welcome features, such as the elimination of truck registration labels, the planned system would not be national and would not address important issues facing trucking operators, such as stamp duty.

“The time to replace FIRS would be when there is a proper national system that deals with all these issues.”



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