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ATA warms to NTC proposals on heavy vehicle charges

ATA expresses support for axle group charging and a move away from a reliance fixed registration fees

By Brad Gardner | April 19, 2013

The trucking lobby has backed National Transport Commission (NTC) proposals to tinker with heavy vehicle charges, including an axle group charge for trailers and fuel-based charging.

The Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) response to the NTC discussion paper lists a number of recommendations it wants the government body to pursue, chief among these the move away from a reliance on fixed registration charges.

The ATA has long advocated fuel charging as its preferred approach, rejecting proposals to impose mass-distance-location pricing on operators.

“The ATA has promoted increasing the variable component of the PayGo model through a fuel based charge for many years,” the submission reads.

“Increasing the variable charge reduces the cash constraint that a large fixed registration charge presents. It also promotes paying for use more as fuel burn is a proxy for mass, distance and road condition.”

In its written submission, the ATA says trailers should be treated as one class of vehicle and that the NTC should focus its time on axle group charging as opposed to a standard charge.

“Simplifying the charges schedule for industry by treating trailers consistently as one class supports the modular use of different trailers and operator desire to use high productivity vehicle combinations, which are relatively safer than traditional combinations,” the ATA says.

“The NTC endorsement of axle group charging is superior to a per axle charge because it promotes using the most productive vehicle for the freight task, compared to simple per axle charge which promotes no distinctive price signals.”

The NTC flagged a standard axle charge as an option, but it expressed a preference toward a group charging system.

“Axle group charging for trailers would improve the PayGo model by recognising that sharing loads over greater axles reduces pavement wear,” the ATA says.

The submission goes on to recommend transport ministers allow the NTC to put together a regulatory impact statement to further examine its proposals raised in the discussion paper.

In the paper, the NTC touched on the need to look at the barriers and timeframes involved in moving to fuel-based charging. The NTC says it will need to identify how governments can recoup payments to make up for any loss of registration revenue under a higher fuel excise.

The ATA’s submission also recommends a further investigation into the charging model to ensure transport operators are not being overcharged.

The proposed changes to the existing heavy vehicle charging system are designed to address short-term problems until the work of the Heavy Vehicle Charging and Investment (HVCI) project are implemented.

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